4 Insights From AACRAO’s Survey on Academic Operations & Student Success

4 Insights From AACRAO’s Survey on Academic Operations & Student Success

AACRAO’s recent comprehensive survey on academic operations investigated how institutions across the country manage their course schedule, catalog, curriculum, space resources, and more. Learn how over 280 institutions approach these functions.

As institutions are increasingly focused on how to better serve students and operate more efficiently, the processes related to academic operations are increasingly under scrutiny. These processes include course scheduling, catalog management, curriculum changes, classroom space management, and more.

To learn more about how institutions are managing these processes, AACRAO recently surveyed institutions across the country on the topic of: Academic Operations: Benchmarks and Ties to Student Success. 281 respondents shared how their institutions manage these processes and the structure, technologies, and data associated with each function. Respondents also reported on student barriers that may occur as a result of how their academic operations are run.

Learn the top four takeaways from survey below.

Over half of institutions don’t have an approved catalog before students are recruited or admitted

54% of institutions reported they don’t have an approved course and program catalog before recruiting and admitting students. This means students may be admitted into a program of study before it is fully approved. Even more concerning, program requirements may change after a student is admitted.

A couple of data points throughout the report may explain why so many institutions recruit and admit student before the course and program catalog is approved. Over 8 in 10 institutions (84%) publish their catalog once a year, meaning there are limited opportunities to update the catalog with new course and program requirements. Time of year also plays into when students can access the most current catalog. 45% of institutions publish their catalog in the summer. Assuming the summer catalog is published for the coming fall term, students are often already recruited and admitted to the institution.

9 in 10 respondents agree academic operations barriers impact students

Just over half (51%) of respondents noted their institution experiences limitations in how students are made aware of policies and practices that relate to academic operations. While respondents didn’t report which policies and practices specifically, another recent survey from University Business sheds light on policies and practices students are unaware of. 63% of respondents reported students are unaware of changes made to the curriculum that may impact them. 48% reported curriculum changes are not always accurately reflected on program maps, completion audits, the website, or other student-facing sources.

Students walking on-campus

Over a third of institutions link academic operations to strategic enrollment management

Institutions are increasingly linking their academic operations to strategic enrollment management—efforts to identify, recruit, enroll, retain, and graduate students in accordance with an institution’s mission and goals while also maintaining fiscal sustainability. 38% of survey respondents reported their institution has strategic enrollment management initiatives that relate to academic operations. Some of these initiatives include:

  • Schedule optimization
  • Implementation of technology solutions to support academic operations functions
  • Academic program review (e.g., adding, dropping, revising)
  • Classroom space optimization

Lack of technology represents a major barrier to running academic operations

Across multiple areas of academic operations, institutions report that a lack of technology inhibits their ability to operate efficiently and serve students. When asked about barriers to student-centric operations, 47% of respondents reported their institutions lacks technology to support these functions. This is reflected in how institutions are currently running their academic operations. To manage curriculum changes, 42% of institutions report they rely on emails and 39% rely on electronic spreadsheets to manage the curriculum change process. Institutions reported similar levels of relying on email and electronic spread sheets for catalog administration and classroom space management.

Respondents also shared their candid thoughts about technology-related barriers their institution experiences. Responses included:

  • “Lots of emails, lots of schedule changes, all done through MS Excel and email. It’s ridiculous.”
  • “It [classroom space management] is a completely manual process and not efficient at all”
  • “Lack of software to streamline course scheduling and classroom management”

AACRAO: Academic Operations Benchmarks & Ties to Student Success

View the survey results from 280+ colleges and universities and learn about how they approach academic operations

Download White Paper

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