Every new school year brings with it a plethora of changes; this year is no different, as Harvard has unveiled a brand new my.harvard web portal. A wide range of student information—about academics and other aspects of student life—has now been consolidated in a new iteration of the familiar website, one is much more user-friendly than its predecessor.
The new my.harvard contains resources for students, faculty, and advisors alike. College students have easy access to their enrollment tools, registration information, grades, tuition balance, advising network, and key University documents—all located in one place. The improvements to the ease of use of the new my.harvard portal have been accompanied by corresponding aesthetic enhancements made it much easier to look at. The new my.harvard’s launch has even gone off without a hitch, a truly rare occurrence in the modern world of new technologies. In short, the new system is certainly a better version of its precursor.
Increased efficiency might come with some tradeoffs, however. The many cosmetic updates to my.harvard have overshadowed an important substantive change: Students will no longer hand in hard copies of their study cards, but rather submit electronic versions. Though this sounds like a “minor logistical difference,” as the administration has described it, in reality it is much more than a simple technological update.
Under the old system, advisors signed off on a study card to give their stamp of approval to a particular set of courses. In the new system, an advisor lifts an “advising hold” on a student that gives the student permission to enroll in any course. This raises a number of questions. Students will consult with their advisors about potential courses to shop, but after that conversation, can they choose entirely different classes on their own and submit them to the registrar without their advisor seeing the final course lineup?
Submitting study cards electronically for approval instead of spending Study Card Day running around campus to track down instructors is a welcome change, and a fitting way to bring study cards into the 21st century. But it would be a shame to see the role of academic advisor reduced from helping a student plan a successful course load each semester to having one non-binding conversation per semester with each advisee.
The new my.harvard does make things better; students and faculty alike will benefit from the effort to modernize administrative systems, increase their efficiency, and eliminate burdensome paperwork for everyone. But it may also weaken the incentive for students to have close relationships with their advisors, which will inevitably—in a very busy environment—weaken the advising relationship itself.
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