A high school in Eagan, Minn., is one of the first public secondary schools in the United States to require its students to register for classes online, a practice that has seen widespread acceptance on college campuses in recent years. School officials say transferring the process to the internet will save money and enable schedulers to compare different scenarios quickly and easily.

Eagan High School, located near Minneapolis, started planning for web-based registration about a year ago. The school’s first online registration took place last month for students in grades eight to 11.

Each grade level had a designated day and time slot for registration, and parents and their children worked with teachers, counselors, and administrators on these dates to create customized 2002-03 school year schedules for each student.

Registration took place in the school’s library and computer labs this year, but students eventually will be able to register for their classes from home.

“For school year 2002-2003, 100 percent of our students” registered online, said assistant principal David Lange.

Bringing parents, students, teachers, counselors, and principals together at the school made for “more appropriate and accurate registrations” in this first year of implementation, Lange said.

Students and their parents can log onto the school’s web site to view a complete list of required and elective courses, with links to online course descriptions. Teachers can also view their class schedules by clicking on a button on the web site.

All courses offered at Eagan High School for the 2002-03 school year are listed alphabetically on the school’s site. Users simply click on the desired letters in the left-hand column.

The online course registration system was created by local software company Infinite Campus. The company’s software is marketed by another company called SchoolExtra, under the name SchoolExtra Campus.

According to Karl Beach, operations director for Infinite Campus, the software is a fully integrated student information system that includes a comprehensive, object-oriented database.

“What that means is that rather than being focused on a specific set of fields, our system has ‘objects’ that allow us to model the way the real world works,” he said. “You can have multiple dwellings associated with a family, for instance. It allows for far more deep and rich information.”

The SchoolExtra Campus software also gives Eagan High School students and parents a powerful scheduling engine. The online registration module will feed into the scheduler.

“The benefit of the online registration screen—since it is web-based—is that it can be configured to meet the user’s needs,” said Beach. “For example, we have a configurable online registration screen.”

Beach compares the software’s interface to that of an eCommerce web site, given its customer-centered focus.

When students go online to register for classes, they first enter a scheduling request. The registration tool then takes this request, stores securely in a database, and makes the data available to the scheduling engine. The request is then factored against the school’s master schedule.

Finally, the scheduling engine takes the request and produces a finished student schedule. And it does all of this amazingly fast, according to Beach—a benefit to both school officials and families.

“For the first time, schedulers can do ‘what if’ scenarios,” he said. “They can schedule for both a six-period day and a seven-period day, and see which works better. They can use that information to really make data-driven decisions.”

Eagan no longer publishes a print version of its “Student Registration Guide,” which lists all the courses available to students. That’s a big money-saver, said Lange.

“Other registration-related materials, data processing costs, and clerical ‘days’ of labor saved will help us save over $7,000 this year in hard cash,” Lange said.

What makes Eagan High School unique is how far school officials have gone in embellishing the registration web site, said Beach.

“They have links to other web sites and interesting descriptions of courses,” he said. “Some classes have hyperlinks that lead to the department’s web site, so kids can see what goes on in class, hear audio files, and view digital video snippets. It’s almost entertaining.”

Students eventually will be able to register for classes from home, and company and school officials say the advantages of online scheduling and registration are compelling.

“We want education to be individualized and customer-focused. This gives you an eCommerce feel,” said Beach. “Why would you want to fill out bubble sheets that have to be corrected, run through a scanner, and then have some poor secretary go and reconcile the forms?”

There is a standard licensing fee for the SchoolExtra Campus software of $5 per student, per year. There are also a variety of support packages that can be negotiated separately.

Other costs include that of the clerical time that is usually spent in the registration process. “However, the clerical time involved has been substantially less than traditional means of registration,” Lange said.

Approximately 25 school districts currently use the Infinite Campus product, Beach said.

Related links:
Eagan High School
http://www.eagan.k12.mn.us

SchoolExtra Campus, by Infinite Campus
http://www.schoolextra.com