New Tool Streamlines Course Selection Process

by on April 22nd, 2013

In response to student feedback, the MBA program has launched EC Course Planner, a new web application that streamlines the course preregistration process and improves the experience of choosing EC courses. RC students were introduced to the tool on April 9th at their EC Transition session in Burden Hall.

Features Help Students Save Time, Eliminate Complexity

EC Course Planner brings together several separate information sources that students use to select courses in a new, centralized format that simplifies the process and aims to improve students’ experience. Upon log-in, students can view the entire course catalog in an easily sortable, filterable grid that also contains quick links to course descriptions, professors’ profiles, course evaluations and Harbus student reviews for each course. Previously, students would have completed the same tasks, using as many as eight separate browser tabs, and cross-referenced those tabs with multiple Excel files they created to organize all the various key details to make their course choices.

After selecting courses, students can also use EC Course Planner to visualize time conflicts, rank the courses, and submit their priority list directly to the Registrar’s Course Preregistration Screen, eliminating the need to manually input their choices. The new tool will help save students time and cut down on the complex management of the selection process.

The tool is the result of a new type of close technological collaboration between the MBA Program administration, HBS faculty, HBS IT staff and MBA students. Student feedback had alerted MBA and HBS IT to a strong desire for more advanced and user-friendly tools to help pick courses. In parallel, EC student Angela Jillson selected the challenge of improving the course preregistration process as her project for a new HBS MBA field course called Product Management 101 (PM 101).

PM 101 was conceived and launched this year through the leadership of two EC students Prem Ramaswami and Rana Kashyap, who believed that HBS students who aspire to work as high-tech product managers would benefit from hands-on experience in specifying and developing software applications that benefit the HBS Community. Professor Tom Eisenmann has overseen the course’s curriculum, which included workshops with experts in user experience design, project management, and database engineering, among other key product management skills.

PM 101 students researched market needs for potential applications, and through this process Jillson uncovered opportunities to improve course preregistration with new technology. While EC students surveyed by Jillson were quite happy with the courses they received through the preregistration process, they strongly agreed that the process itself could be streamlined. Jillson designed an application that addressed the most common pain points identified by students, and MBA IT used her specifications to begin development of EC Course Planner.

Since January, HBS IT, the MBA Registar’s office and Jillson have worked together to incorporate student feedback to refine the tool that all RCs will use to research, select and prioritize courses for the coming year. It was a true collaboration and feedback from initial testers has been positive, showing the power of having the user voice actively involved in the development process from start to finish.

With the tool now launched, the MBA Program staff plans to continue improving the tool; in that spirit, Jillson and the IT team will use student feedback this Spring to make recommendations for future versions.

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