It is a fairly ubiquitous stance on campus that Bionic, the Bi-Co’s course selection website, is inconvenient. The site looks as if it was created in the early days of the internet, its home page nearly blank and its navigational features nearly as complex as the courses students sign up for. The search feature is archaic and technical, with almost two dozen different ways to filter classes: clicking the “back” button on the browser will send you back to the home page, not your last screen; if you walk away from your screen for a few minutes, the website automatically logs you out; I could continue listing inconveniences, but I will spare you the secondhand frustration.
A simpler, more informative site would save this campus a lot of time and stress at an already stressful point in the semester, in which students are adjusting (or readjusting) to college life and making important decisions about their academic and potentially professional futures. The Bionic site could benefit from a few additional features or changes that would ease early-semester anxieties and give students more agency in the process.
1. Show syllabi on class description tabs.
Selecting classes last fall was chaos for me. Since I was unsure whether I would get into a lot of the classes I signed up for, I showed up to as many as I could (seven). I made my decision an hour before the Add/Drop deadline. I felt forced to attend so many classes because Bionic gives so little information about the courses being offered. Currently, students get a short paragraph description (or even a few words) describing the course. Students should not need to play a guessing game or ask friends-of-friends to find out what their next semester might look like and should not need to attend seven classes their first week to figure out which they want to stick with. Professors spend months preparing to teach their courses: why not excite students with their plans for the semester? If they made their syllabi available in Bionic, students could learn about multiple classes that run at the same time (which they cannot do now) and help them make more informed decisions.
2. Include Swarthmore courses.
Currently, Haverford (and Bryn Mawr) students cannot enroll in Swarthmore courses through Bionic. Even though the information may be out there, it would be much more convenient to organize it under one Tri-Co site. Swarthmore courses (and Penn courses when the Quaker Consortium returns) should be automatically integrated into the system so that students don’t have to jump through unnecessary hoops to enroll in the courses available to them. Implementing this would encourage more students to take Swarthmore classes.
3. Make grades visible and accessible throughout the semester.
It is refreshing that at Haverford, grades are not a significant part of the social dynamic on campus – the academic environment is not nearly as competitive as it is in most high schools (mine included). However, this does not give the College a free pass to simply release grades after the semester is over (which takes far too long, but that could be an article in itself). Students should be able to easily view their updated grades in order to track their progress throughout the semester. A transparent system would give many students peace of mind and continue to de-emphasize grades on campus.
Whether or not the College decides to shift to a more convenient method of course selection, it is important that students understand the system they are entering when it comes to course selection. It involves more than a tutorial video on using Bionic because getting into courses involves more than just clicking “enroll.” For example, I was tenth on the waitlist for a class last fall (which I very much wanted to take) and ended up getting in by showing up to the class two more times, not knowing whether I was in or not, and by expressing my interest. Sometimes there is nothing to be done, but had I not talked to my professors or attended subsequent classes, my academic trajectory might be very different today. It is important that professors make their courses’ content, style, and grades more accessible for students because it significantly impacts their experience at Haverford. I have suggested these changes so that students might have more information upfront, feel a little less lost, and be saved from the semesterly exasperation that is course selection at Haverford.