Saxa Politica: MyAccess: because nobody’s perfect

April 2, 2009

It turns out that proverbs are not always the best life guides. For example, if unbroken items were not occasionally fixed, we would still be living in caves tending to mediocre fires. Progress is all about taking something that does its job adequately and finding a way to make it better.

At times, unfortunately, in order to take one step forward, you end up taking two steps back. This seems to be the case with Georgetown University’s new student information system, MyAccess, part of which went live this month and which will replace StudentAccess+, the University’s old student information system. In principle, it’s a step in the right direction, but its execution leaves something to be desired.

The ancien régime was far from unpleasant, but it failed to take full advantages of the opportunities afforded by new communications technology. StudentAccess+ functioned like a traditional paper-and-ink document whose contents had been copied onto various web pages. Course selection could be tedious, since students had to look through all of the departments’ listings in order to find classes that fit into open slots. It was time-consuming, and it often felt like trying to assemble a Rubik’s Cube.

This is where MyAccess (sort of) shines. Its search features makes it much easier to isolate those classes that fit into those hour-and-10-minutes gaps that are constantly popping up. This is precisely how computer technology can and should make pre-registration more convenient.

But although MyAccess is almost on the right track, it’s got some work to do; in a lot of ways, it’s even clunkier than StudentAccess+. Its abundance of drop-down menus can be annoying when you’d like to have all of your options laid out in front of you. Also, searching for classes, while a great idea, is painfully limited in MyAccess: searches must be restricted to courses within a single department.

And while browsing the class schedule wasn’t helpful for making last-minute decisions regarding awkward holes in your schedule, it was nice to have when taking a casual glance at what was available. With MyAccess, this schedule has vanished.

In theory, these things can be dealt with, and hopefully they will be. University Information Systems should act as a liaison between students and SunGard, the company that operates MyAccess, to promote the further development of the system so that it can live up to its full potential. It should make sure that searches are as broad as possible; they should require only a single criterion, such as start time, end time, credit hours, or department.

If UIS can vocalize these concerns, and SunGuard can act on them, then surely (in spite of some initial growing pains) the transition to MyAccess can prove worthwhile.

Let John light your primitive fire at


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“searches must be restricted to courses within a single department.”

While the public course schedule (not requiring a netID login) is limited to searching in a single subject, you can search all subjects from within the search on the preregistration form.


Correction – In the public course search, you can select multiple subjects before submitting the search, but you must select at least one.