I chose this topic as it was something that heavily impacted me at the start of the session, pre-COVID. Unfortunately, the topic did become slightly less relevant as we transitioned to online uni, and I think it would’ve been more interesting to conduct my research in a normal session of uni. However, I felt as though the topic was still relevant as it is something that all university students at UOW had experienced at least once.
The results I received in my research definitely met my previous assumptions of people’s views on the current tutorial enrolment process at UOW, but the extent of how much it affected some student’s really surprised me. I hope it’s something the university can take into consideration for future sessions, particularly when we go back to face-to-face learning.
BCM212 was probably the best out of all my subjects to transition online, which made completing my research project much easier. The tutors, lecturer and fellow students were all so helpful and understanding of the difficulty of navigating online uni. The green book and reflective learning in tutorials also really helped throughout the session.
In terms of my research project itself, I definitely fell into the trap of procrastination, like I had listed in my risk matrix. My workplace reopening and sport restarting also impacted the time and focus I had to work on it.
Something I really liked about this subject and assignment was that it showed me different methods of collecting data, and doing it in an ethical and effective way. These are methods I can now use in future assignments, or in jobs I may have. It has also made me more aware of how I would answer in a survey/questionnaire or an interview, and what kind of information and answers are useful to a researcher.
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.
How does not getting your desired tutorial times impact on the other aspects of an individual’s life?
Every university student has a different student experience, and for many students, including myself, this includes balancing work, sport, extracurricular activities, family, relationships and socialising with university.
It can be hard to create a university timetable around all these commitments, especially with the tutorial enrolment process that UOW has currently put in place for students. It can be especially hard to accomodate for every student’s needs in subjects with large cohorts with enrolment into desired tutorial times being determined by how fast you can refresh a webpage and select a time slot.
Whilst I was unable to find current or past studies into “not getting the uni tutorial enrolments you want”, the polls I conducted on Twitter for this research proposal gave me an insight into how this aspect of the student experience may impact on an individual’s life.
Although 35 students is a small sample size, this poll gave me an insight into the high number of students who were unable to get a space in their preferred or required tutorial times.
This poll also confirmed my belief that not getting the tutorial times you prefer or require impacts on an individual’s life outside of university.
According to Susan Gair, the ability to balance university, work and other commitments has only become more difficult 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). Nearly 80% of university students studying full time have paid employment, and according to a study by Dr Michelle Hood, 40% of these students work 16 or more hours a week (Griffith News, 2018). Being unable to enrol in your required tutorial times can only contribute to the stress of maintaining a uni, work and life balance.
This is something I unfortunately experienced at the beginning of this session (pre COVID-19). Regardless of the lists and multiple perfect draft timetables I’d created, like suggested in this Year 13 article, I was unable to find a place in my preferred tutorial times and only managed to get 1/4 of my preferences. This meant I had to travel to uni four days a week, instead of my preferred two days. This had a major impact on my weekly schedule as I had factors such as a 1 hour train and bus commute to and from university, a job to support myself, netball training and coaching a netball team to consider. I’m sure this is also the reality for hundreds of other UOW students too.
Is there a better tutorial enrolment process that can lessen the impacts?
Complaining about tutorial enrolments seems to be a universal topic for all UOW students, and is something anyone studying any degree can agree on. I wanted to research other university’s enrolment processes to see if they were similar or dissimilar to UOW, as I had never heard my friends, who attend universities such as USyd, UTS and UON complain about their tutorial enrolment process.
This process seemed to reduce the stress and uncertainty of tutorial enrolments felt by UOW students. It also seemed to be more inclusive for students who may be juggling many other priorities in their lives such as family, work, health and sport. Looking into this process also definitely made me curious to research this further in within the project and to find ways that UOW could possibly improve their own tutorial enrolment process.
Is this timely, achievable and relevant?
I believe researching this topic will be timely and achievable as it is a universal experience for UOW students and is definitely something I would be able to get a lot of feedback and varying answers on from students and staff within this degree, as well as outside this degree if necessary. It is also relevant as whilst the current situation the world is in has impacted our ability to attend university physically, it is something that has impacted the majority of students at UOW in recent years and the beginning of this session.
No two student experiences are alike. Factors such as degree, culture, gender, living on or off campus, nationality, health, work and extra curricular activities all come together to create your own unique student experience.
For BCM212, we are focusing on the student experience and what makes us different or the same. The aim of our main project is to find our “curiosity” about the student experience and research it.
My curiosity is tutorial enrolments.
Specifically, I’d like to focus on how the process of tutorial enrolments impacts on a student’s life outside of uni.
I really wanted to focus on this topic as it is something that has greatly affected my life outside of uni this session. I was very lucky last year in getting all (or close to) all the tutorial times I needed to balance my work, sport, family and social aspects of life. This session I was not as lucky. Due to clashing tutorial and lecture times, subjects on different campuses, and a laptop that decided to stop working exactly 1 minute before tutorial enrolments went live, I have been left with a very inconvenient schedule.
As a student who also has to commute just over an hour via public transport, I also understand the struggle of students who commute to uni and how not getting their preferred tutorial times can have a flow on effect into other aspects of their lives.
Did you get the timetable you wanted this session? Has not getting the tutorial times you wanted impacted on your life outside of uni?