COLUMN: Will online degree auditing work?

According to a recent Central Michigan Life story, Central Michigan University  finally figured out how to implement an online degree auditing program.

I’m torn about how to react to this; I either want to say “It’s about frickin’ time” or “la-de-frickin’ da.”

I’ve always hated dealing with the mysterious bureaucratic overlords in Warriner Hall. During every audit appointment, I remember thinking I’d much rather be dealing with a non-judgmental computer than this stressed adviser who can just barely mask his or her contempt toward me for being stupid enough to overlook some non-degree-related 300-level class requirement in the indecipherable mess commonly referred to as the academic bulletin.

But, before I get too excited for the lucky students who will be around for the program’s full implementation in 2015, I’m brought back down to earth by CMU’s recent history of abject failures with anything related to technology.

Who can forget the $956,950 CMU spent on “upgrading” their website in 2011, back when iCentral morphed into the impossible-to-use CentralLink. I still can’t find anything on without using Google, and CentralLink makes me feel like a parent who needs his son or daughter to show him how to use Facebook.

Then there’s Blackboard, a system loathed by students and instructors alike for its random outages and complicated interface. And, of course, there’s the course registration system that randomly freezes when you’re trying to enroll in a required class that has one seat left.

It’s hard to believe the online degree auditing program won’t also be impossible to use and/or navigate. I gave the currently launched portion of the program a cursory whirl (after finding it by conveniently going to CentralLink, logging in, clicking on every link imaginable, getting mildly irritated, returning to the home page, clicking on “My Account” and finally locating the strangely named “Advising Workbench” link). The first line of text greeting me was “Progress Evaluation Unavailable.” Great start!

To be fair, after clicking around a bit, I discovered I could successfully view my “Academic History” and “Student Profile.” It’s probably worth mentioning I can already view all of that information elsewhere on the site, but the Academic Workbench does present the information in a centralized location.

It’s entirely possible I’m just a cynical old curmudgeon. I still text with my T9 flip-phone, and I was recently terrified when I drove a 2006 Toyota Prius, due to the key-less ignition and strange shifting mechanism (I drive a 1998 Pontiac Montana).

I wish the future students of CMU good luck in figuring out the online auditing program. Maybe it’ll work flawlessly and even save some students the nightmare of having to delay graduation because of missing requirements.

Or maybe it’ll be another expensive piece of technology that sucks.


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