Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Print it or Perish?

For about the sixth time in as many years, my office is overhauling the university's printed schedule of classes. In this revision, we are trimming the amount of material we put in the printed version and asking users to go online to find, for example, a list of all evening courses offered or a form to apply for admission as a student-at-large.

Most of the afternoon I have been rearranging text boxes, reconsidering column widths and font choices, and hoping I don't leave an important piece of information on the pasteboard. Inevitably, no one would notice that it's missing until the printed version arrives on campus. The schedule contains so many dates and details, that I usually am whispering a chant or a blessing over the UPS package I send to the printer as I carry it to the drop box (or drive it to the UPS main facility because pick-up has already occurred at the box outside my office). If a horrible omission or error is discovered, we can make a correction on the website. Almost the minute I get back to the office from taking the package to the drop box, I begin the tedious process of creating web pages with all of the information contained in the printed version!

So, if all the information is online, why do we continue the painful ritual of creating the printed schedule?

Several years ago, when some people started making serious noise about eliminating the print version, I wondered if that would be the beginning of the end for the many print pieces our office produces. I think I resisted eliminating it in part out of stubbornness and concerns about job security. I know I had other more sound reasons, and a recent focus group of users reaffirmed my instincts. People like print publications! Some students were scandalized by the suggestion that we eliminate it.

"I know it's time to register when I see people carrying around the book," one user said.

Students have told me:

"My sorority has a registration party each semester. We sit around with copies of the book and recommend courses and instructors to each other."

"Get rid of the book? No way! Who can I talk to about that?"

"The covers are fun and surprising."

"It's easier to find stuff in the book."

Just last week a student poked her head in my office to ask when the books would be available. I told her not til next week, but that the information and course schedule were already available online. "That's okay, she said, I'll just wait for the book."

You can see Bradley's online schedule of classes at

But you have to come to campus to get a copy of the book.

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