Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Shopping or Metaphor?

We're phasing in a new on-line registration system, my third since I got to this job.

Students pick classes by putting them in a "shopping cart" just as they do when they shop at whatever on-line retailer.

Do the people who design these things even think?

Is shopping really the metaphor we want to use for choosing a curriculum, a course of study?

Maybe it's not a metaphor at all, after all, the customer is always right, and I'm sure not the customer in this model.


  1. We have this system (or a similar one), and it drives me nuts. Not only is "shopping" not the right metaphor, but to add injury to insult, if a student puts a course in the shopping cart and doesn't delete it after registering for courses, our degree audit system thinks that the course in the shopping cart should be counted toward degree requirements. Argh!

  2. When you put it that way, it sounds pretty bad. But even when I was in college (back in the day...) we had a "shopping period" during which we were allowed to add and drop classes without penalty. No one thought of it in a negative light at that time.

  3. Brian, We haven't gotten that far yet. :/

    Ianqui, Wow, really? We were lucky to get into enough classes for the term; there wasn't room to go looking around as I recall. (It's worse where I am now, but it was pretty tough even back then where I did my undergrad, at least in my major.)

  4. We have (or had, up until the cuts) a "shopping period," but it was unofficial, as in it was the word that students used for enrolling in twice as many classes as they needed and then dropping the ones that seemed hard/boring. So the TAs would make speeches reminding everyone that there is no "shopping period" and if they didn't want a class they need to make sure and drop it right away to be polite to their fellow students.

  5. Our students already think of the university as a kind of giant Best Buy. They don't actually need help. I had one student tell me, a few semesters ago, that he didn't think professors *should* be able to fail students. "Not when I'm paying $2000 a semester to go here," he explained.

    You pay your fees, you get your Bs.