Campus & Community

Catalog, handbooks, Q Guide go online only

3 min read

In a plan designed to eliminate waste, provide more options for faculty, students, and staff, and to reduce costs, the “Courses of Instruction,” “Harvard College Handbook for Students,” “The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook for Students,” and “Q Guide and Information for Faculty Offering Instruction in Arts and Sciences” will be available online only, beginning with the fall 2009 term.

In announcing the elimination of the “Courses of Instruction” and handbooks, registrar Barry Kane says, “There are many compelling reasons to have online-only versions of these publications. A majority of our students and many members of the faculty and staff conduct most of their business online, and are very effective at using the array of online tools available to them. In addition, the president has asked all segments of the University community to make good judgments about activities that may contribute to the creation of greenhouse gases. The amount of paper used for these publications is, by definition, not a good use of resources.”

Kane also says that eliminating the printed versions of these publications will save tens of thousands of dollars. Further, he says, the printed “Courses of Instruction” “is significantly out-of-date before the first copy rolls off the press.” Many faculty members find it increasingly difficult to finalize course data in time for the May print deadline, and students relying on the printed version have complained that their ideal schedule sometimes has to be dismantled because of changes to the courses selected, especially in the spring, by which time the catalog is nine months old.

Advantages to the online catalog include advanced course search capability, allowing students to search for courses to populate their online shopping carts and to ultimately print their study cards; easy printing of courses offered by a particular department; and faculty access to a sophisticated stand-alone electronic application that provides them with the results of their course evaluations.

“When you look at the volumes of paper, printing costs, and the fact that most people use the online versions of these publications, it made very little sense to continue to print paper versions,” says Jay Harris, Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies, dean of undergraduate education, and master of Cabot House. “Further, the online versions of these documents give the user a greater ability to access information, and much more flexibility in viewing multiple sources of information synoptically.”

Online course evaluation information will be fully integrated into the shopping tool, allowing students to find it very easily. Students will be able to compare courses using a number of evaluation parameters. Courses in the students’ shopping cart will have a summary of their Q scores, so students can look at them side-by-side. Students will have access to the full text of comments on the evaluations for one key question, asking whether students would recommend the course to their peers, rather than edited versions in the printed guide. Finally, students will see displays and analyses of evaluation data, including various benchmarks, not currently available in the printed guide.