Building Back Trust in the Scheduling Process at Lake Michigan College

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Building Back Trust in the Scheduling Process at Lake Michigan College
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Lake Michigan College (LMC) needed a new scheduling tool to replace their homegrown system, which posed challenges for faculty trust and data accuracy. Implementing Coursedog’s scheduling solution helped LMC save time, innovate their processes, and make data-informed decisions.

Institutional Overview

Location: Benton Harbor, MI

SIS: Ellucian Banner

Early Outcomes

After launching Coursedog’s scheduling solution, Lake Michigan College achieved the following results:

  • 380+ hours saved creating the schedule
  • Increased access to data to make resourcing and facilities decisions
  • Fewer requests for scheduling reports due to new faculty accessibility

The Challenge: Homegrown Scheduling System Still Required Manual Work & Lost Faculty Trust

After moving away from a pen and paper scheduling process, Lake Michigan College (LMC) used a homegrown scheduling tool that was originally developed by the institution’s IT department. While the homegrown software brought some process improvements, the system ultimately didn’t meet all of LMC’s needs.

Scheduling administrators Jodie Littlefield and Deb Montcalm noted that the system wasn’t a reliable program and that “what worked yesterday might not work today.” The system sometimes resulted in data inaccuracies with their SIS (Ellucian Banner) and information such as the list of approved faculty for certain courses was not always accurate. This wasn’t just a problem for HLC accreditation purposes, but also faculty lost trust in the system.

For administrators using the system, they still had to spend time running manual processes. The system only allowed staff at LMC to roll the schedule to Banner once, which they would do after the first round of schedule creation. However, they would then still have to printout paper Cognos reports of the first set of schedules, manually identify any errors, and then go back into the system and correct each error. Jodie and Deb estimate that each scheduling term, they would have to correct 25-50 errors for each of the three divisions at their institution.

This time intensive scheduling process was a burden for administrators and faculty that nearly spanned the entire academic year, with only a week of off time between scheduling cycles. Information accessibility was also a challenge for both administrators and faculty. Faculty constantly had to contact scheduling staff for reports on their department’s schedule, which quickly added up as each report took roughly 30 minutes to pull and edit specifically for each department chair each time.

Solution: Adopt a Cloud-Based, Integrated Tool That Provides Accessible Data

When LMC received a Guided Pathways grant, they used this opportunity to look for and purchase a new scheduling tool. LMC sought a cloud-based scheduling tool that fully integrated with Banner. While their previous system couldn’t be accessed off campus, the LMC team wanted a tool that faculty and staff could access while working from home or after hours.

After comparing different vendors, the LMC team chose Coursedog for its user-friendly interface, strong integration with Banner, and data accessibility. According to Jodie Littlefield, LMC “needed a system that was accessible anywhere, had a good user interface that people would be confident in, and then a big one was the data.”

Goals: Build Back Faculty Trust & Make Data-Informed Decisions

The LMC team wanted to ensure that faculty would regain trust in the scheduling process and data with a new scheduling tool. The Provost & VP of Academic Affairs was also invested in implementing a tool with accurate data. For example, as enrollment dips at many community colleges, institutional leadership wanted to ensure they were using campus space efficiently to maximize resources. Reports available in Coursedog, such as the room utilization report, would help institutional leadership better understand how campus space is currently used and how it could be managed more effectively.

Implementation Process: Project Manager Helps LMC Integrate & Innovate Their Processes

A team of six staff at LMC worked with Coursedog staff to implement the scheduling platform. Jodie and Deb both called out their project manager, Danielle, and implementation team at Coursedog as one of the highlights of their experience. Danielle’s thorough understanding of Banner and how to integrate helped guide LMC staff on how the implementation mapped to LMC’s processes and Banner environment.

The LMC team also appreciated the willingness of Coursedog to adapt to their institution’s specific needs. For example, the LMC team asked if they could add CRNs to the platform as they use them more than section numbers as a Banner school. The Coursedog engineering team accepted the request and built a new CRN field within the platform.

When thinking about LMC’s implementation process, Deb mentioned:

”I think about the engineering team. There was never a time when anyone came back to us and said ‘well they didn’t have time to work on it this week.’ They would say here is the next iteration, will this work?”

Jodie also appreciated that the implementation process forced LMC to rethink their processes and how they could be structured more efficiently. Jodie noted that:

“A big part of getting Coursedog was that we were able to evolve. It forced us to get a team, work together, and figure out what is going to work and what is needed.”

Results: LMC Saves 380+ Hours & Continues to Innovate

After implementing the Coursedog scheduling solution, both faculty and staff spent less time creating the course schedule. In the administrative office, one staff member was able to step away entirely from building the course schedule because the team no longer needed as much support. This resulted in a time savings of approximately 380 hours per year for the LMC team. Scheduling staff also receive fewer requests from faculty for scheduling reports, as faculty can now easily access the reports they need themselves.

LMC is also now equipped with reports to help make important resource decisions. For example, the Director of Facilities uses room utilization reports from Coursedog to make budget and staffing decisions. These reports also help facilities determine how rooms can be used more efficiently. For example, after discovering that only one class was scheduled during the summer in a building with an expensive air handler, they were able to move that class and close the costly building during the summer.

Since beginning to use Coursedog, the LMC team has continued to evolve their practices to create better processes. For example, they updated their approval workflows after discovering that workflow steps in the platform could be broken into smaller, more accurate steps.

When meeting with their Coursedog project manager, Deb noted:

“Just about every time we met with Danielle, we found out about something new that Coursedog could do. It was either something we had been wanting to do for quite some time or something we didn’t even think about. This happened numerous times. There was a lot of clapping going on.”

Similarly, Jodie noted that at LMC:

“We keep evolving. There are more and more things we keep on finding. It’s been wonderful to have weekly meetings with our Coursdog rep to continue to change and evolve and get more efficient.”

Next Steps: LMC to Adopt Additional Modules of the Coursedog Platform

After a successful implementation and adoption of the Coursedog scheduling tool, LMC purchased the event management, curriculum, and catalog tools. LMC is excited about the integration among the different solutions and that they live in one platform. Jodie also noted that:

“We are really happy that Coursedog feeds into Banner and DegreeWorks and the registrar is really looking forward to that piece.”