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Course Registration Made Easy? Nope. It’s Against the Rules.

Course Registration Made Easy? Nope. It’s Against the Rules.

Registering for college courses tended to give me heart palpitations. Even though I was slightly (ok, a lot) more neurotic than your average college student, I always felt that the odds of getting my ideal classes at the ideal times were slim to none — especially on a campus with 40,000 other students. Thank goodness then for people like Tim Arnold.

As the Huffington Post recently reported, the University of Central Florida senior had a relatively brilliant solution for ending the pre-registration strife of college students everywhere. He developed “U Could Finish,” a program that sent a text message to students when a spot opened up in one of their preferred classes at UCF. Arnold’s program obviously provided a much needed short-cut for students and became an immediate success with over 500 users in less than a week.

The university’s response? Heartfelt gratitude for facilitating course registration? Congratulations for applying intellectual talent to a real-world problem? Nope. According to TEDx, UCF shut “U Could Finish” down, sentenced Arnold to academic probation, and made him write an essay on why his program was inappropriate (in their eyes, anyway). CNN’s Soledad O’Brien quotes from a UCF statement:

They said they encourage and applaud innovation and entrepreneurship but…uh…it’s not about innovation, it’s about the execution.

Granted, if Arnold cared solely about making the course registration process easier, he could have waived the $0.99 fee his program charged and avoided violating the university’s prohibition of students profiting from academic tools. He also could have tried to collaborate with or at very least consult UCF before letting his program go live and subsequently jamming the university’s network. He claims, however, that his attempts to work with the university on previous projects were less than successful and decided not to approach them for approval. To top it all off, the Central Florida Future, UCF’s student newspaper, reported that on the same day the university decided to sustain Arnold’s academic probation, they unveiled a new course registration system obviously “inspired” by his original program. Classy.

Arnold’s case flags the inherent dilemma in schools’ dual duties to simultaneously nurture and discipline students. Obviously students need structure, limits and to generally understand that rules exist to facilitate the learning process and should therefore be followed. But what about when those rules actually hinder students’ ability to actively engage in or apply what they’ve learned? How many times have any of us heard an adult say “Because I said so,” in response to a child’s (or teen’s, for that matter) demands for an explanation of why they can’t do something? Probably too many to count. Personally, there have been quite a few times in my teaching career when I’ve had to stop and think hard about why I’m doling out a particular punishment or vetoing a specific student’s project idea.

Educators and academic institutions are supposed to be encouraging creativity, problem solving and critical thinking skills in their students, not squashing them simply for the sake of maintaining an all-powerful image of authority — and in UCF’s case, retroactively profiting from their ideas. When it comes to saying “No,” we need to make sure we have a solid reason to back it up, much as we would expect our students to include in a debate, persuasive essay, or thesis defense.

And if there’s no good reason? Well, it might mean swallowing our pride, admitting we don’t have all the answers, and losing a little face for the sake of enabling students to celebrate and benefit from their own intellectual breakthroughs.

What do you think?

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Photo Credit: RubAcn Chase via Flickr

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4:04PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

I just finished enrolling in my uni. I expected it to take me an hour max with just putting in my details and choosing the lanuage since all my classes are compulsory ones but no, I had to juggle all of those around to find I'm gong to be permanently late for most due to the back-to-back nature ot them. 3 hours of stress. For one stupid timetable. I hate to think what'll be like next year.

1:54AM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

College's are nothing but big business and they're only in it for the money so the longer you stay waiting for courses you need, the more $$$ they make! Sad..............but so true!

9:09AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012

How many times have any of us heard an adult say “Because I said so,” in response to a child’s (or teen’s, for that matter) demands for an explanation of why they can’t do something?

That stops when you're a teen?? It's not as if the police say stop because ..., or your boss/supervisor will bother to explain things to you, they just want/need it done. The Glaring privileged position in this article is really hard to over look.

I truly, and honestly wish that the bloggers would go an extra step and do more than merely recite the news from other links, with a bit of prose to connect links from various sites together. This is one story that really needed a call to people to verify facts and get first hand quotes, as HuffPo is a POS and has run numerous false/misleading stories to benefit institutions economically. CNN is shifting focus to reality TV, TEDx events have no/limited quality control of their message, just so long as it is something "Interesting" enough to generate hits. This is problematic, No?

There isn't enough info in this story for anyone to really know why this is an issue, apart from the registration issue, but that exists at most schools. The problem seems to be the "Execution," but what does that mean. Is it how the data was accessed or the way it was used etc. These are the things that make or break the story. Not the heart string plucking of poor student punished. There must needs be context.

8:30AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012

Thanks Meghan for the article. Mr. Arnold's creativity may have cost him academic probation and the need to write an essay, but I can't wait to see how he applies his creative talents in the business world once he graduates. UCF was wrong in what they did and I agree with Dennis D. he should sue the University.

6:05AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012

Wow I have to admit that I actually agree with Elaine A today...for higher education to actually allow for free, critical, problem solving thinking would be a wonderful thing. This world needs creative independent free thinkers...that is how change comes about...people in general, however, are afraid of change and that is reflective in the educational system.

5:47AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012

I agree with Dennis D. Arnold should sue them for taking his intellectual property.

5:15AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012


4:56AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012


4:04AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012

If I were him I would not write the pwper and sue the school for obviously ripping his idea off. I am sure a smart lawyer is must likely in contact with him right now.

He should patent the idea as well and market it to other schools. The problem here is that, I think, he was looking at a local problem and not casting his net wide enough.

5:04PM PDT on Aug 20, 2012

Thanks for sharing.

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