Why Excel for Class Scheduling & Information Silos are Bad for Student Success
Manual tools, such as Excel, require administrators to manually collect, enter, and validate data. However, this process is prone to error and creates barriers for students. Learn why it might be time for your institution to upgrade their scheduling tools.
Section Scheduling is a complex, multi-step process that often involves numerous stakeholders across campus. Regardless of whether an institution practices centralized or decentralized scheduling, many legacy scheduling processes necessitate scheduling data be passed through numerous hands, and manually entered into multiple systems. Each of these exchanges creates an opportunity for data to become misaligned, inaccurate, and a potential threat to administrative efficiency and ultimately student success.
The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) found that over half of institutions do not leverage scheduling software, and of those that do most do not utilize an end-to-end tool that encompasses all stages of the scheduling process. What this means is that the majority of institutions continue to rely on disparate communication chains, like email and paper forms, to communicate scheduling decisions and changes.
This information sharing method creates silos where disjointed scheduling data not only becomes a headache to administrators, but also begins to lack any credibility. The question then becomes: what impact does a lack of a single source of truth for scheduling data have on a school’s ability to make effective business decisions? What effect does it have on students? The answers to these questions are best exhibited with an example.
The Student Impact of After-the-fact Change Requests
Most schedulers are familiar with the onslaught of after-the-fact change requests that arise after the schedule has been built, past the schedule submission deadline. Given the late-stage nature of these requests and the multi-step workflow that they initiate they can make the schedule particularly susceptible to errors. The following exemplifies how after-the-fact change requests occur and impact students:
- An instructor has a last-minute conflict arise that prevents them from teaching at their originally scheduled time slot. They reach out to their department scheduler over email to let them know that the original time submitted in their faculty preference form, and later assigned to them, is no longer viable, sharing a new, preferred time.
- The department scheduler then reaches out to the registrar’s office over email with notice of the change.
- The registrar’s office goes back to their room availability calendar and sees that there is one lecture room with the correct capacity available, and enters the new time and room assignment into the SIS.
- The SIS pushes the updated scheduling data to the student registration system.
- After registration begins the department scheduler receives another email from the faculty member stating that they were assigned the incorrect time. In going back and looking at the communication chain, it is discovered that 8AM rather than 8PM was entered into the room availability calendar.
- While the class was able to be moved, it’s enrollment capacity was not met as a number of students needing to take the course for a major requirement were unable to move their schedule around mid-registration.
While this is just an illustrative example, it is closely aligned with many synopses shared with us by our partnering institutions detailing errors that can occur at any stage of the scheduling process prior to transitioning to an end-to-end scheduling solution. Each instance in which scheduling data is transferred outside of an end-to-end scheduling solution poses a risk to data integrity due to human error, creates unnecessary back-and-forth for administrators, and prevents institutions from accessing a birds eye view of accurate scheduling and enrollment data. Taken together, manual data entry and information silos often act as barriers to institutions accessing the accurate data they need in order to make informed scheduling decisions for the benefit of students.
If the above example resonates with you, an end-to-end scheduling tool may be the solution your institution needs to enhance scheduling for both students and administrators.