When students gather in common rooms and butteries for “bluebooking parties” next fall, they will not be using the iconic blue course catalogues that sit on most Yalies’ shelves.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller said Yale College Publications, which publishes the Blue Book as well as the Yale College Undergraduate Regulations and the Freshman Handbook, will no longer offer the Blue Book course catalogue because many students now prefer to search for courses online. She added that she hopes the College can soon provide an enhanced version of the current Online Course Selection (OCS) system.
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“We know that’s how students are using it,” Miller said of students’ preferences for the online system, “and we need to be responsive to our users.”
Miller added that cost was not a major motivation for the change — the cost of revamping OCS could ultimately exceed the savings from not printing the Blue Book.
Aside from the 1,359 Blue Books that were automatically reserved for freshmen this year, 1,631 other students opted to receive the printed catalogue, according to Laurie Ongley ’81 GRD ’92, managing editor of Yale College Publications.
Yale is not the only school to move away from the printed course catalogue: This marks the third year that Harvard has offered only the online option. Jay Harris, dean of undergraduate education at Harvard, said that most students have adjusted well, but he added that some faculty members and administrators use computers to print the entire catalogue.
Twelve of 15 students interviewed said they primarily use the online system, and several said they had ordered Blue Books but never actually used them.
“I like the online system better because you are able to do more things with comparing classes and seeing evaluations,” Erica Yurvati ’15 said.
But most students interviewed still expressed regret that they would no longer have the option to flip through the Blue Book’s pages. Maddie Adams ’12 said she likes to gather with fellow members of the cross-country team to explore the course offerings.
“We all like passing around the Blue Book,” she said. “It’s nice to not be at your computer when you’re trying to look for classes.”
For Leah Rajaratnam ’12, leafing through the Blue Book encourages her to peruse the offerings in a wide variety of departments, she said, whereas she tends to narrow her searches by department online.
Though students will no longer have Blue Books as of next year, they now have online course shopping options beyond OCS. Charlie Croom ’12 and Jared Shenson ’12, a former photo editor and production and design editor for the News, respectively, have already created a popular new online course catalogue (yalebluebook.com) with the support of the Yale College Council. The new site attracted as many as 2,500 unique shoppers per day during shopping period, Shenson said. Fourteen of 15 students interviewed said the new website is easier to use than OCS, which has many pop-up windows, and has a sleeker design. But all students must still use OCS to verify and print their official schedules.
Associate Vice President for Student Financial and Administrative Services Ernst Huff said he is still in the early stages of determining the best way to improve OCS, adding that he has met with Croom and Shenson about the possibility of incorporating their work into the new site in some way. The new site would be ready by next fall at the earliest.
“We’re impressed by what they have done, and we’d like to do something similar,” he said.
Croom and Shenson said they are currently working to enhance their own website before next semester’s shopping period. New capabilities might include integration with Facebook and Twitter, more information about textbooks and better search options.
The Blue Book has not always been blue — course catalogues use to be small, white pamphlets, according to Yale historian Gaddis Smith ’54 GRD ’61.