Penn’s new course registration system will replace Penn InTouch in March 2022 after facing multiple delays.
The new platform was originally set to be released at the end of 2020, but was delayed until 2021, and then delayed again, as COVID-19 threatened to disrupt plans, Executive Director for Academic Technology and Planning Rob Nelson said. The system will be implemented in time for summer and fall 2022 course registration.
The new system is set to consist of a number of improvements to the outdated Penn InTouch software, including making the interface more modern and seamless and fixing glitches. Nelson told The Daily Pennsylvanian in 2019 that the current Penn InTouch infrastructure contains functionalities from the 1980s. So far, there is no official name for the new platform, Nelson said.
“While considering several possibilities with the student advisory board, Path@Penn is the leading contender for the name of the new Penn InTouch,” Nelson wrote in an email to the DP.
The phaseout of Penn InTouch is part of a larger project called Next Generation Student Systems, which aims to streamline and improve Penn’s curriculum planning and aid systems through a suite of websites and applications.
Nelson said the new rollout will include more than just a replacement to Penn InTouch, such as "a collection of applications and information systems that will support students’ academic planning and academic success."
The platform will include a student engagement layer, which is a web portal that links students to any academic information they need to access, and a registration application, PATH, that will allow students to plan and register for courses.
Unlike Penn InTouch, PATH will integrate academic planning and registration, rather than having academic planning worksheets and registration as separate processes, which Nelson said is intended to make course registration more efficient. PATH will also fix many of the glitches that currently frustrate students, such as overloading during registration periods.
Nelson said that student voices have been important to the development of the project. A student advisory board working on the project consists of students representing the Undergraduate Assembly, Penn Labs, the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.
College and Wharton senior Daniel Gordon has served as a UA representative on the PATH advisory board for several years, and said that student voices were considered in all areas, ranging from the product's infrastructure to its name.
Outgoing UA Speaker Pro Tempore and College junior Jonathan Scotto said that an important part of his role on the advisory board is making space for student affinity groups in the conversation. He said he has been in contact with groups such as Penn Non-Cis and Penn Association for Gender Equity to be sure the new site respects pronouns, as well as the Transfer Student Organization to combat challenges transfer students typically face with course planning.
“I’m not speaking for student groups and for the experiences, but rather including them in the conversations,” Scotto said.
In addition to pronoun designation and a potential name-pronunciation feature — which Scotto hopes to see, if not in the initial release, in a future iteration — other new features include a redesigned interface for course planning and a tentative new waitlist system, which were influenced by popular Penn Labs products and may overlap with them in functionality, said Nelson.
Engineering junior Marta García Ferreiro, outgoing co-director of Penn Labs, said that Penn Labs may make changes to differentiate some of their popular course planning sites, such as Penn Course Plan and Penn Course Alert, if the new system provides students with some of that functionality.
Engineering sophomore Charles Cunningham, who is a team leader for the Penn Labs course sites, said he joined the student advisory board this semester to help prepare the Penn Labs team for any changes they’ll need to make to accommodate the new system, or possibly assist in discontinuing Penn Labs products that are made obsolete.
“Penn Labs just cares that students have access to the resources they need. We’d be super happy if the new Penn PATH project has a much nicer [user interface] for selecting courses and registering for them,” Ferriero said.
The students of the advisory board, including seniors who won’t have a chance to use the new software, all look forward to students being able to plan their academic courses without the inconvenience of the old Penn InTouch system.
“The system is outdated, and props to the administration for recognizing that,” Gordon said.