A Guide to Overhauling the Course Scheduling Process
Overhauling the class scheduling process to better meet student and administrator needs can be intimidating. A list of concrete actions can help garner campus support and move new scheduling initiatives forward.
Preparing for Change: A Cultural Approach
Students’ needs are changing drastically, and universities recognize that they need to do more to keep up. But taking the necessary steps to de-prioritize faculty scheduling preferences to better service students can strain relationships between departments, instructors, and administrators as they endeavor to find common ground.
Intangible and cultural phenomena at an institution can make it especially hard to effect change. As the EAB notes, “space management in higher education is complicated by historical culture and shared governance.” Making a change is rarely, if ever, simple.
Challenging the Status Quo
As you know, effecting change across an institution can be incredibly difficult. Even if your school is willing to acknowledge its shortcomings, administrators and academics are staunchly resistant to upsetting the status quo. They would rather make predictable mistakes than fail in possibly unknown ways.
That’s why garnering support from all facets of university life has become indispensable in the process of making tangible, substantive progress. To alter a culture, you need buy-in from all the individuals who compose it. As a result, we work with dozens of schools to understand best practices in changing administrative and faculty cultures to be more data-driven, student-centric, and efficient.
Before any tangible change can occur, there needs to be consensus on your campus that a problem exists, what that problem is, and that it’s worth fixing. So, investing in university-wide collaboration upfront is invaluable. You must contextualize the problem within the broader context of your school’s objectives and the relevance of each individual constituent’s function to them. Without this collaboration at the outset, initiatives to change garner little legitimate support and are likely to face friction and turbulence.
Widespread and diverse involvement of institutional personnel is imperative for meaningful change. By encouraging collaboration between instructors, department chairs, administrators, and university executives in the process, you can more democratically and substantively institute change, while decreasing the likelihood of discord moving forward. Doing so will facilitate analysis and solutions more consistently representative of your school as a whole, fostering a culture of common purpose and accountability.
At many institutions, stakeholders remain unaware of the implications of poor space, time, and resource utilization for both the campus community and the school’s operational success. At some institutions, stakeholders fail to see how they would benefit from improved utilization and so are unmotivated to act. As a result, they deprioritize space management, often citing political fragility as a reason not to act. By tailoring space, time, and resource management communications to specific audiences, and by highlighting the impact of potential solutions, you can better leverage people across your college or university. In particular, share the array of research on the topic and that’s been used to inform pieces like this one.
Data is indispensable to the process of motivating and actualizing change. Getting data in the hands of those potentially at odds with disrupting the status quo is a compelling way to motivate action. And making data-driven decisions geared toward retention, persistence, and graduation rates, especially as they relate to the optimization of administrative processes on campus, will validate the effort required to try something new.
Enforcing Policy. Eliminating Manual Processes.
New initiatives only work if policies are actually enforced, and policies will only be enforced if it’s feasible for people to do so. If it proves to be too difficult an undertaking, few will reliably endure, regardless of the ends an initiative aims to serve. Thus, you must focus on strategies that support your metrics while providing a clear roadmap of how to achievement them. Consult with peer institutions to share best practices and empower the folks at your school to implement new initiatives easily and on a timely basis.