On the Interwebs: The Administrative Nightmares

Universities are a place of learning and intellect, and mine is no exception—it’s one of the top schools in the country for many of its major programs. We have some of the brightest young minds in the country, fairly impressive access to technology and absolutely amazing teachers. So why does it feel like the administrative side is designed to make us feel dumb?

Like many others, my university has pushed a lot of its administrative functions to the web, so students have to take care of most of their business online. But our website is impossible to navigate, the webmail is confusing, and we get no notification about when tuition fees are due or when we can see our report cards. I feel left out of the loop on my own education. Even on summer break, I’m desperately checking my emails and Blackboard account trying to get myself sorted, but I just can’t. Now I’m worried I might have missed some important deadline and won’t be properly registered for next year.

I finally gave up trying to figure it all out on my own, so I called the school’s help line, hoping to get some assistance. Unfortunately, a lot of other people seem to have had the same idea, because I was put on hold for two hours and didn’t get to speak to a single human being. It was just automated voice after automated voice. The Internet is supposed to be so convenient and efficient, but oftentimes I just find it confusing and impersonal. I would rather register for my classes the old-fashioned way: waiting in lines for hours on end to drop off a form. That way, if I’ve made a mistake, at least there’s a human being to tell me what I did wrong, rather than a 404 error and no explanation. And I know my experience is fairly common, too. University administration is very rarely a pleasant experience, no matter where you attend. The people are usually great—it’s the machines that make life difficult.

The online administration model isn’t perfect, but ultimately it is not beyond repair. What schools need to understand is that a lot of us have never dealt with this level of complexity before—and so the programs we have to use for our academic organization and such, like Blackboard, need to be more comprehensive and accessible. We aren’t given much instruction on how to use the applications, and so it’s difficult to plan our education when we don’t know how to use the tools. There was one class on how to use Blackboard at the beginning of the year, but that information has long since fled me. They could also use more people working the call centres, to help confused students like me through it. Course registration is a difficult process, and in high school we had a guidance counsellor to help us make these decisions for our future. Now there’s no help. It’s just us and our own judgement, which can be a difficult transition.

It’s a really scary feeling, and I don’t like it. I’m trying my best to keep on track, but sometimes it feels like I’m barely even afloat. This summer is passing so quickly, and I just don’t understand how I’ve already been off for two months! If I were still in high school, my vacation would be over and I’d be going back to class in a couple of days. Two months always seemed like such a long time, back when that was all I had for summer break. But now I have four months and it’s already half over. What on earth am I supposed to do?

On a better note, my security license should be here soon, and then I’ll be able to start working. Having more money will be a relief. Sort of a security blanket, if you will. Hopefully I will get the 40 hours a week I was promised—then I should be able to save a fair amount to help with living expenses and such in the coming year. Money and hard work: the two staples of a successful education.

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