Aloha from Chaminade University of Honolulu and Jennifer Creech, Registrar and Assistant VP of Student Success. Recently, we interviewed Jennifer about the University’s experience implementing Coursedog Catalog and Scheduling platforms, including the benefits they are seeing. (In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, no less!)
According to Jennifer, her experience at Chaminade has been a little different from that of most registrars. That’s because she was brought in as a change agent, with the complete cooperation of her leadership and staff, making her the perfect person to oversee the Coursedog implementation.
“When implementing any new technology and you go through the processing of different products, it’s all about your current practices and trying to get the software solution to fit existing practices,” reflected Jennifer. “Most of the time, they are very outdated and come with a lot of historical experiences and expectations of how it should go. This was the first software implementation for the team at Chaminade in a very, very long time.”
Because the university couldn’t integrate with its Ethos SIS yet to pull data that way, the team elected to go with a CSV (comma separated values) integration.
“I’ve worked with other vendors and used CSV before because the SIS connection wasn’t set up yet,” Jennifer shared. “Depending on the size of the school, I personally like the way that that goes because you have time to work through the data and massage it to make sure it’s exactly what you want before you start connecting to the product.”
Going with Coursedog, Jennifer already knew what she wanted. Having vetted other products, she needed an end-to-end solution, not one product for the catalog and another for scheduling.
“I wanted it all together as one because the more products that you have that are tacked on to the SIS, the more you are going through with the connectors, the data bridge,” she explained. “You’re always relying on someone else if one piece is not working.”
“I wanted a cloud-based solution that included catalog, scheduling, and eventually curriculum that wasn’t going to be a lot of work for our IT staff because it's a small team and pulled in many directions,” she continued. “I wanted something that I could manage mostly within my own area. That was the big draw to Coursedog.”
According to Jennifer, she opted to start with bare minimum functionality to ease people into the new platform, so they weren’t overwhelmed. Plus, she counted on Coursedog to have the potential to do much more in the future.
“As I work with the team, and we start thinking about things in this new way, I can say that in the next phase we are going to implement this part and start using this data set,” she said. “Coursedog has the ability to do more, but right out of the gate you don’t have to do it all. There are certain features that I can turn off, and when we are ready, I’ll introduce them.”
As an example, Chaminade is currently using the scheduling events module for classroom reservations only, although Jennifer sees everyone moving to events for the entire campus in the long term.
Because she was new, Jennifer tackled the catalog implementation herself to have the opportunity to look through every single page and learn the material. What’s more, at her previous school when they gave people ownership of catalog pages, the school started to lose its brand.
People started to do little one-off things that weren’t consistent across the whole catalog, according to Jennifer. So, this time, she wanted to first try to figure out what pages people had to own versus what she could edit and manage on her own.
“I knew I had a quick turnaround for the catalog,” said Jennifer. “The transfer of information worked, and although we had minor issues especially since how fast we were turning it around, there was nothing missing on the product end.”
On the scheduling side, the event component allows the team to add photos to let people see the difference between a COVID classroom and a regular one, enabling them to understand what they can request.
“We are a small campus with 37 classrooms,” said Jennifer. “I was able to edit classroom capacities for COVID requirements. We had to know what rooms we were putting people in. I found the actual disks from the previous scheduling application. They were from 1983, so you can see how long it’s been.”
“I like that there are some analytics included,” Jennifer added. “I know some really expensive platforms that have analytics, and I’ve previously made an investment in those. However, it turned out to be way too much information and not actionable,”
“Coursedog has analytics built in, and you can do as little or as much with it as you want,” she added. “It will be helpful because there’s not as much risk. When I start giving information to faculty where it’s their full-time jobs to look at, analyze, and critique data, I’m not prepared to handle those questions. So, I like the reporting this has for projections.”
For the spring semester, Jennifer was able to provide data to schedulers that they had never had before: how many students they have in major and what year they are (so they can plan out how many courses they need to offer) and what was offered in the past 5 like terms and how many students were enrolled. The idea is that they proactively plan, using the information for data-driven decision making. “I want to give colleagues and staff the resources and tools they need to do their jobs effectively,” she said. “The Coursedog platform has allowed us to do that.”
According to Jennifer, when they switched to Coursedog, they eliminated the concept of room ownership. In the past, instructors created ghost sections to hold rooms, For fall and COVID, the university needed to have as much face-to-face teaching as possible, creating outdoor spaces with tents and using other spaces not traditionally used for classrooms (like conference rooms).
“In the beginning, I was able to pick and choose who went into each classroom to change the mentality that this is the room that we always use,” she said. “We also took into account the time it takes instructors and students to set up their technology before class if teaching back-to-back classes.
Another thing Jennifer decided was to not rollover like terms (fall to fall, spring to spring) for now. Her idea is to make schedulers think about what they are scheduling, manually entering and looking at data at least once to ensure the best decisions are made.
“I want it to be thought out, intentional, not just a past practice that was carried over,” she concluded. “We should use data to determine the schedule. Once we do that, we can go back to rolling over.
For Jennifer, scheduling should be student centered rather than faculty centered. Although the faculty own the curriculum and one of the benefits of teaching is a flexible schedule, they shouldn’t be scheduling around things like band camp and day care. That could be a final straw for a student in a time when retention is more important than ever. Thanks to Coursedog, the student success element of her job just got easier.