GROUP THINK is The DP’s round table section, where we throw a question at the columnists and see what answers stick. Read your favorite columnist, or read them all.
This week's question: Does the administration give students adequate resources to select their classes? That is, does Penn do enough to help students find the classes they're looking for or are students not given enough help to shop for courses?
Joe Tharakan | Cup O' Joe
I think that, after the first round, Penn students are smart and capable enough to shop for their own courses, determine their own schedules, and decide their own academic futures. And if any student is uncomfortable doing it on their own, there are numerous academic advisors who are more than happy to help them.
A better question to ask is why students continuously fail to utilize the abundance of resources available to them. This question is far broader; it covers everything from academics to career searches to community building to mental health. Demanding more services, a new office, a new institution or, God forbid, a new task force will only have a superficial effect on this issue. So perhaps the better question is: how can students begin to trust the university and take advantage of all the resources it has to offer them?
Mike Palamountain | Stranger Than Fiction
Penn does a good job of providing students with the resources they need to select their classes. The Penn InTouch system has a fantastic search function. What I find most convenient about it is that it allows the user to search for courses that specifically fulfill any requirement. If you know what requirements you need to fulfill it is easy to find what classes you could take. Beyond that, the Penn Course Review provides you with a way to see how other students have rated professors and courses in terms of their difficulty and quality.
Combining the versatility of Penn In Touch’s Search and Penn Course Review’s rating system grants students almost full power over their course selection. They almost make advising obsolete. But where they fall short, advisers are able to step in and provide any final assistance. Yes there may be slip ups and advisers may not always be able to help. But overwhelmingly, Penn provides a positive user experience for course selection.
James Fisher | Spilling the Real Tea
I often times feel like selecting courses is a very daunting task that I have to go through alone. I think because administration assumes that our pre-major advisers are helping us with course selection, that there is no need to assist students or make course selection easier to navigate. But what if you're a student with a horrible pre-major adviser? Then you're pretty much choosing courses using your own logic, opinion from friends and Penn's list of sector requirements.
Isabel Kim | It Keeps Happening
I would say that Penn has adequate resources but does a poor job of directing students to those resources, and fragments those resources so that course selection is more difficult than it needs to be. For example, if I want to check whether a class fills a sector, and whether it fits into my course schedule, and what it is about, I need to visit three different websites at minimum. Penn InTouch's course search section also relies on students having a prior knowledge of what they are searching for — which can lead to pigeonholing students in their niches, or difficulty for new students first navigating the system. This is a problem with all search engines, of course, but Penn could get around this problem by having a simple list of all the courses being offered in a semester. That being said, many departments at Penn have these sorts of lists, which alleviate some of the problems with only having a search engine.