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penn-in-touch
Credit: Eric Zeng

Advance Registration for the spring semester has begun, and Penn students are scouring Penn InTouch for courses to take.

Yet, beyond opening an extra tab for Penn Course Review, students often have separate tabs for their academic planning worksheets, the department(s) for their major/minor/program, and course listings from every semester prior at a minimum.

Students are stuck surfing through multiple tabs and different departmental pages to assess which requirements they already fulfilled and find courses that they need to take for their respective studies at Penn because Penn InTouch is both difficult to navigate and not informative. And this just adds more stress to an already stressful process.

Penn has announced that a new course registration app called PATH will replace Penn InTouch in the near future, but when the Academic Technology and Planning team implements this change, they should fix the problems that plague the current system.

Penn InTouch has many problems that need to be addressed, especially with the academic planning worksheet. There are symbols with vague definitions, an auto-assign setting that oversimplifies requirement fulfillment (like the rules with double-counting and major-specific course requirements). Also, the worksheet page does not offer access to any information about courses taken in the past, which leaves students to remember every requirement or open up new tabs and fill in everything for themselves without any check. On top of this, the department websites are all different, rarely linked, and do not offer students perfect information about course selection.

At the same time, Penn InTouch is not very informative about the courses themselves. Even if someone declares a major or minor, students still have to open up multiple new tabs to see which courses fulfill those requirements. Not only are students forced to edit the assumptions made by the course worksheet with auto-assign, but students have to open up multiple tabs on their computers to see which requirements they have already fulfilled (a course listing from a previous semester), the requirements they need to fulfill (website for the department), and which courses fulfill which requirements (a course listing for the current semester). And don’t forget Penn InTouch course search, Penn Course Review, and perhaps the academic planning worksheet.

To put it briefly, Penn InTouch needs to be more informative with regard to major and minor requirements. Requirements are a huge stressor for Penn students, especially when it is so hard to figure out how they need to be filled. While Penn Labs is making strides to combine many websites students use while selecting courses, as much should be done in one place as possible.

Students should know by clicking on a course which requirements it fulfills for them. If the system knows that the student declared a particular major or minor, the system needs to adjust to the student’s requirements. The system should also tell students which requirements they already fulfilled when clicking on courses so students don’t have to keep checking their unreliable academic planning worksheets. Students should also be able to see a list of the classes that satisfy the requirements that they have not yet fulfilled.

While students often turn to their advisors for questions related to majors and minors, there are discrepancies in academic advising, and many students are stuck dealing with Penn InTouch and all of its complications without the help of a faculty advisor with more practice using the system.

The University needs to make changes to the Penn InTouch system in order to make this time of year significantly less stressful for Penn students. If Penn students have a better sense of where they are in their academic process, they will be able to make more informed decisions and feel more comfortable during the course selection process.

ILYSE REISMAN is a College sophomore from Millburn, N.J. studying English and Music. Her email address is ireisman@sas.upenn.edu.

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