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Academic Advisers Adjust to New Electronic Study Cards

With the rollout of a new electronic study card system on the reworked my.harvard portal, advisers across the College’s academic departments have adjusted their beginning-of-semester procedures for the new online system.

Prior to this summer's redesign of my.harvard, students could print multiple versions of study cards and had to solicit signatures for all from their academic advisers. Now, with the approval process shifted online, advisers simply lift an electronic hold to allow students to officially complete course registration.

Shopping Begins
Students filled the Science Center lobby during the first day of shopping period on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

“My general sense is that students are eager to have the advising holds lifted and have been trickling into advising meetings earlier,” said Lauren Bimmler, who is the English Department’s undergraduate program administrator and serves as a full-time adviser for the department. “It’s an improvement on before when students would mostly wait until close to study card day to meet with their advisers.”

According to Bimmler, close to a third of the advising holds for English concentrators were lifted as of Friday afternoon. She added that the advising ratio varies by faculty member but can range anywhere from two to 12 students per adviser.

Jeffrey A. Miron, the director of undergraduate studies in the Economics Department, also said that the lifting of the advising hold was contingent on student conversations with their advisers. He noted that, under the new system, students might change their course list after their advising conversations.

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“Once the conversations happen, we lift the hold and the student is free to turn that study card in, and if the student makes a change, the student can do so without coming back to the adviser,” Miron said. “We’d be happy for them to come back and talk to us some more if they want, but they can do it on their own.”

In contrast to the Economics Department’s approach to course changes after the initial advising meeting, the English Department emphasizes that students will inform their advisers of all potential course schedules during the advising meeting.

“We made sure to remind faculty advisers that, if a student is not totally decided on their four or five classes, they make sure they know what the options are,” Bimmler said.

Economics lecturer and adviser Anne N. Le Brun said her meetings have not been concentrated on the day when study cards are due.

“I enjoy the fact that you have conversations over many days with the new system,” Le Brun said. “It’s more spread out, done more calmly, and perhaps more time is spent on each student.”

In that department, five full-time concentration advisers and Miron himself can lift the advising hold. According to Miron, prior to sophomore concentration declarations in November, each adviser is responsible for slightly less than 100 advisees.

Andrew Berry, a lecturer on organismic and evolutionary biology who advises students in the life sciences, said that he has been pleasantly surprised by the way in which the new system has impacted the advising process.

“I was worried that students would just send lists of courses over email but that hasn’t happened yet,” said Berry, who estimates that he had met with close to 100 students regarding study cards by Saturday afternoon. “Now with the hold-release system, students can come into the office without having everything pinned down. The system is less high school-like—it means more responsibility for the student, and it’s less prescriptive.”

—Staff writer Michael S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at michael.aviyonah@thecrimson.com.

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