Whilst there are many factors that differentiate each individual student experience, particularly at the University of Wollongong, there is one thing that almost all students can relate on. The tutorial enrolment process.
When discussing this with friends who are undertaking various degrees at UOW, as well as friends who attend other universities across the country, I became aware of just how big of an impact the current tutorial enrolment process at UOW has on students. I wanted to study this topic for my BCM212 research project to investigate student’s true thoughts on the process and to see if there were ways it could be improved to suit their needs.
To gain a deeper understanding of this topic, I conducted two online surveys where I acquired quantitative and qualitative data. I then undertook research of secondary sources to support the findings from my surveys.
There were some limitations I experienced throughout my research into the tutorial enrolment process. Due to the relatively small sample size of 51 participants across my surveys, and the fact that they are all Communications and Media students at UOW, my results may hold a bias and may not reflect the views of the entire student body of UOW. The fact that this particular aspect of the student experience was mostly only relevant to the University of Wollongong, I was also limited in secondary sources to analyse as part of my research.
How do students feel about the current tutorial enrolment process at UOW?
I posed the question, “How would you describe your feelings towards the current tutorial enrolment process at UOW?”, to the 44 participants who participated in my first survey posted to Twitter and promoted through the #bcm212 hashtag.
63.6% of participants responded with various answers that used the word “stressful”. Multiple participants also stated it was “anxiety-inducing”. Only 2 participants expressed that they had no issues with the current process. There were varying answers to this that included:
“I think the first in best dressed system is really fair and effective. As long as you have access to capable internet.”
“STRESSFUL AF, literally na [put in unavailability] for work the day that I know I have enrolments because I stress all day about not getting the times I need.”
“It’s easy when you’re in high school like they tell you exactly what to do with the atars and uac process but after you’ve accepted your offer they sort of leave it up to you. The timetable system is tricky to work out and frustrating. It definitely helps if you have older siblings or friends who have previously enrolled- if I didn’t I would feel pretty lost.”
These answers somewhat confirmed my preexisting belief that some UOW students struggled with the current tutorial enrolment process.
The Impacts of Tutorial Enrolments
For a majority of students, university is not their only priority or commitment. In recent years, university students have identified they struggle to balance study, family, financial hardship and paid work that has in turn impacted their daily lives, study success and mental health (Gair, 2018).
When students are unable to create a university timetable that suits the other factors of their life, it can only add to this stress. This struggle was also highlighted in one of my survey questions I asked participants:
Work was highlighted as something that was impacted the most by tutorial enrolments and timetabling. According to a study conducting by Dr Michelle Hood, 80% of university students studying full time have paid employment, with 40% of these students working 16 or more hours a week (Griffith News, 2018).
Survey participants were asked to expand on the aspects of life that were impacted by missing out on their required/desired tutorial times. Some answers included:
“As I am doing a Cadetship, it was important to line my timetable up with my work schedule as I only get a certain amount of hours each week dedicated to uni work.”
“Required me to sleep on mates couch bc of late times.”
“Had to change my work hours I’d been doing for over a year with the same company, had to miss out on one of two training sessions a week for footy.”
“it also impacts flow of my life – wasting time waiting around for the next class, have to go in to uni for just 2 hours, wastes time travelling, disrupts my study and reduces the time i have to relax.”
I found some of these answers relatable to my own experience as a student struggling to juggle my work and other commitments when I only managed to get 1 of my preferred tutorial times. Some were alarming to me, especially the fact that a participant had to stay the night at their friend’s house due to the late time of their tutorial.
The University Of Sydney’s Tutorial Enrolment Process
I conducted a second, smaller survey where 7 participants were given a comparison of the University of Wollongong and the University of Sydney’s tutorial enrolment processes and asked to answer questions about this comparison.
Out of the 7 participants for this survey, 6 identified that they did not like the current tutorial enrolment process in place at the University of Wollongong, and 1 identified that they were “50/50” on the process.
The University of Sydney describe their tutorial enrolment process as a system which “prioritises minimising clashes and keeping class numbers balanced, then student preferences are taken into consideration” (University of Sydney, 2020). USyd also use a system to create students timetables instead of student’s manually creating their timetable, like UOW.
All 7 participants stated that they preferred the University of Sydney’s tutorial enrolment process over the University of Wollongong. Elaborating on this, themes such as “accomodating for student’s needs”, “allowing more time for organisation prior to the semester”, and “less stress” justified their answers.
Across both of my surveys, I asked participants for suggestions on how the University of Wollongong could improve the current tutorial enrolment process. Some of these suggestions included:
“Have them do enrolments earlier than two weeks before uni starts. So I can plan tutorial swaps earlier is needed.”
“Getting each student to fill out their preferred times before enrolment opens, then if one class has too many students it shows up as red, then students have time to re-evaluate one’s schedule if they can’t get into that particular class.”
“Expressions of interest by students, nominating the popular days and times.”
“potentially be more understanding towards students, set up a system where students can easily swap tutorial times.”
“….The process of first in best dressed is unfair and can be very stressful for students when trying to sort out their timetables, so getting rid of that would definitely make students feel more comfortable and feel like their needs matter to the uni.”
“Make it more flexible and catered for modern uni students. Most people have lots of other factors to consider outside of uni.”
It is clear from my research, that if available, a new system or some changes to the current tutorial enrolment process would be welcomed by current students, and may also benefit new students to the University of Wollongong.
Gair, S. (2018). ‘Balancing work and tertiary study is harder now than in 2012: study’. Available at: https://theconversation.com/balancing-work-and-tertiary-study-is-harder-now-than-in-2012-study-89969
Griffith News. (2018). ‘Students stressed from work/study juggle, says Griffith study’. Available at: https://news.griffith.edu.au/2018/02/14/students-stressed-from-workstudy-juggle-says-griffith-study/
University of Sydney Tutorial Enrolment Process. Available at: https://www.sydney.edu.au/students/timetables.htmlAdvertisements