Kansas College Pushes Self-Service Registration

Diane Carroll
Innovation Showcase

Two years ago, when online registration opened for fall classes at Johnson County Community College (JCCC), the computer system slowed to a crawl and the telephone lines crashed.

Not the kind of spring morning that anyone wanted at the college, which serves nearly 20,000 students each fall in Overland Park, Kansas, part of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The trouble was the timing. When registration opened at 8:00 a.m., students rushed to sign up for classes at the same time that hundreds of staffers were turning on their computers to start their day. The systems couldn't handle the load.

This spring, the Registrar's office and Information Services took a new tack: They opened online registration in the evening at 9:00 p.m., when few people were using the college computers. They also pursued a new goal: to provide a self-service process that would be 100 percent successful. They wanted to set up the process so well that everyone who was registering could do so quickly and all on their own without the need to call anyone at the college for assistance.

"The switch was flipped and within 10 minutes, more than 1,200 students flew into full registration mode, classes were selected and enrollment was completed," said Dennis Day, Vice President for Student Success and Engagement. "By midnight, almost 2,400 students had participated and JCCC nearly hit a 100 percent participation mark with no alternative support."

Only 44 people called the Help Desk, and most of them just needed help to sign in."We were full out prepared for complete disaster this time but from what we saw it did go very smoothly," said Registrar Leslie Quinn. "It was a tremendous joint effort."

The college had offered self-service enrollment before, Day said, but the spring effort was the first to aim for 100 percent participation.

"Most companies and institutions that offer self-service are happy with 70 or 80 percent participation," he said. "But students are very digital now and think they should be able to get whatever they want online."

Day and Quinn said they believe the effort succeeded because of the preparation that was put into it.

The effort was heavily marketed. Students understood that they needed to be prepared if they wanted first dibs on classes. They had to make sure in advance that they had completed any prerequisites and that all of their fees had been paid. In getting the word out, students also were advised that they could choose to wait to register until 8:00 a.m. the next day when assistance would be available.

The next morning, only two people were in line for registration assistance.

In prior years, there had been long lines, with some students arriving as early as 4:00 a.m.; many of those students would have been skipping their early classes to register. This year, they were in class as they should have been.

"I think it's a great convenience for students to allow them to register when they want to as opposed to when you make them," Day said.

For more information, contact Dennis Day, Vice President for Student Success and Engagement at Johnson County Community College.

Diane Carroll is a Staff Writer at Johnson County Community College.

Opinions expressed in Innovation Showcase are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.