Apr 022012
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

Course numbers, class names and those confusing course reference codes will, without a doubt, be stressing out students across campus as Fall registration approaches in the coming weeks.

Navigating the sign-up process can be tough, but CSU officials are urging students to take advantage of one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date tools available: the DARS reports available through RAMweb.

“The audit is in no way meant to replace academic advising,” said D. Tobiassen Baitinger, the interim associate registrar at CSU. She explained the Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) report can be used for students to play the “what-if” game when it comes to changing majors and see how close they are to graduating and what requirements remain.

She also stressed that students should run the program throughout the semester to make sure class changes are being entered correctly, especially after completing a term between meeting with a designated adviser.

“It’s meant to supplement and align well with it,” she said.

The comprehensive DARS program is used across the country and includes information from the campus-wide general catalog, as well as faculty committee input during the planning process.

The programming process can be confusing, especially as students add classes, change majors and alter departmental check sheets.

Typically, those changes within the course of study can be made almost immediately. Errors can occur when there is a communication breakdown between departments but are rare and easily remedied, according to Baitinger.

“There’s definitely a level of flexibility where we work with the departments to try to make it work best for the particular situation,” she said.

The process can become more complicated when different groups of students are forced to meet ever-changing program requirements, meaning that multiple catalogs must be loaded into the system for different groups of people.

An updated version of the DARS interface is expected to launch sometime in 2013, according to Chris Seng, a senior associate with the registrar’s office. He added the university only has control over the content, and the output is part of a larger company in charge of similar programs across the country.

Though the DARS program is a useful tool for both faculty and students, many still stress the importance of a relationship with advisers on a regular basis, even beyond the required once-per-semester slot.

“Students should also realize that the university considers their degree program and progression toward graduation to be ultimately their responsibility,” said Blane Harding, an adviser in the College of Liberal Arts. “In other words, students are intimately responsible for understanding graduation requirements with the assistance and guidance of advisers and faculty.”

He added that the program is never truly explained to students and can often be misinterpreted, causing undue stress to both faculty and the students.

Diane Burton, the assistant director for the University Honors Program, echoed these sentiments.

“Advisers are a tremendous resource,” she said “Although DARS is helpful, it certainly doesn’t replace a qualified adviser.”

She explained that there will always be value in meeting face-to-face with someone who can help you through your time at university, be it for course requirements or major changes. In her mind, DARS is just another tool to navigate the complex world of university scheduling.

“Your adviser is here to help you if you need advice about almost anything,” she said. “Plus, advisers can answer questions. DARS is an awesome tool, but if you ask it a question, it won’t give you an answer.”

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Breaking down DARS

Highest months for reports October, April, August, January

2007/2008: 98,995 Reports
2008/2009: 158,758 Reports
2009/2010: 189,662 Reports
2010/2011: 215,910 Reports

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