Foreign Language Placement On-Line Registration Improves Services for Staff and Students

By Stephanie Wejbe, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing


The Departments of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages and Hispanic Studies administer all foreign languages placement tests for the campus. The previous method of enrolling students consisted of labor-intensive manual processes that exhibited management and time issues. Fully deployed in Summer 2003, the new Foreign Language Placement On-Line Registration system has overcome challenges resulting in improvement in savings costs and valuable time for staff and students.

Manual procedures made up the previous method for enrolling in the foreign language placement test. A team of five staff comprises the administrative group to support both departments’ business operation. Since there was no dedicated staff position to administer the placement test, the five staff handled the enrollment processes in addition to their regular job functions. Students would call or visit the departments to determine their eligibility through an interview which took at least five minutes or longer to explain the process and rules. If the student was eligible, administering staff would record the required student information and schedule a testing date, but the system they used left room for error.

The processes had several issues that were difficult to manage. According to Marilynn Keil, Administrative Assistant for the Department of Comparative Literatures and Foreign Languages, “The volume of phone inquiries before a placement exam used to be so great that it took more than one staff person to handle it. Often students would call more than once to verify information, but the person who answered the call wouldn’t necessarily know what the student had been told previously.” The number of allowed enrollments in each placement test schedule was limited and since there was no centralized scheduling method available, staff had no knowledge of the available space when they enrolled a student using a hard copy, which would then result in frequent overbooking and rescheduling.

Student information was many times incorrectly recorded due to staff error or information was lost when given over the phone. Students’ phone calls would go to voicemail due to staff being busy serving other students, especially during the two weeks before a scheduled test date. Staff members were frequently interrupted from their other duties due to students’ constant enrollment requests.

The new system’s key features have greatly simplified the functions of the former process. With the new system, test eligibility can be determined by asking students a sequence of questions online. Students are able to view test schedules from a browse able calendar of test dates and times. It also shows the number of spaces still available for each scheduled test. Students create an account with the enrollment management system and log on to the system using the information from the registration process. Following the initial phase, the system can enroll and verify enrollment of a student in a placement test. The system will reject enrollment if there is no more space available for the selected test schedule. If needed, enrollment can be cancelled in a placement test.

Since the system automatically produces and prints the enrollment student list for each scheduled test, all needed paper forms for proctors to supervise the tests are standardized and student records have been well managed in standard procedures and formats. More staff time has been saved.

According to Keil, the new registration system “has made the entire process so much easier for both staff and students. Both the departments of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature use this system to register students in placement exams—far more students take Spanish tests than all the others combined. In both cases, the system has freed staff to spend their time in much more useful activities serving students. One very simple enhancement of the quality of our service is that while counseling students, we’re not interrupted constantly with phone calls about placement test schedules, registration, or regulations.”

During the 2003-04 school year, UCR enrolled 4195 students in language classes. Through the end of April 2004, approximately 1,000 students were eligible and actually enrolled to the Foreign Languages Placement Exam. Before the system was deployed, there were over 2,500 phone calls a year to request enrollment. After the system was deployed, the phone inquiries dropped to only about 150 calls a year. The new system has been extremely beneficial in saving staff members more than 200 working hours a year between the two departments.

Since the system is web-based, administrative staff can perform the enrollment administration process at anytime in any computer that has Internet access. The new system has increased efficiency and is flexible enough to accommodate unexpected refinements, Keil noted. Student service quality has been enhanced since students can enroll 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They no longer have to wait for staff to be available during the business hours or come to the departments to sign the payment consent form.

According to Keil the impact on students has been the lack of comment. “Since the students don’t know how it was handled before they would be more likely to complain about the current system—there have been absolutely no complaints.”

The project was completed in May, 2003 and the system was fully deployed in the Summer, 2003. The project’s technical and creative team members were from CHASS College Computing (C3), the departments of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages and Hispanic Studies, and Computing and Communications (C&C). C3 contributors were Director, James Lin, E-Business Solutions team leader Ryan Rich, ‘03 Student Intern Alumni Phuong Lynda Tran (graphic design) and programmers Joshua Willis and current student intern, Sean Cox. Programmer Analyst, Loren Irwin, from Computing and Communications also assisted. Additionally, departmental staff members that participated in the project included Administrative Assistant Marilynn Keil, Student Affairs Officer Dawn Whelchel and former Management Services Officer Emily Papavero.

Keil added, “I hope other departments will be enthusiastic about such a time-saving and efficiency enhancing innovation.” If you would like to view the online enrollment system please visit, http://placementtest.ucr.edu

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