Does Your Course Scheduling Promote Student Success?

Topic: 
Class Scheduling

As the realm of student success has grown over the years, course scheduling is now another tool institutions can use to promote positive student outcomes. Yet, course scheduling is rarely thought of as a tool to make it easier for students to progress and complete their programs.

Institutions can help students move through academic programs efficiently and effectively by creating student-centric schedules and providing students with essential course information. Explore the three action items below to help put students first in scheduling.

1. Encourage academic units to examine how efficiently students can complete programs offered by their unit

Examine how easily students can register for the courses they need to complete their program on-time. Ask academic units to assess the following areas:

  • Course offerings: Are required courses offered each term? Are co-recs or pre-recs offered at the same time, forcing students to choose between them and potentially slow degree progression?
  • Student availability: What types of students frequently enroll in your academic programs? How might this impact their availability for courses? For example, do you have part-time students, commuter students, or student-athletes that may have schedule restrictions?
  • Course demand: Are you offering enough sections of high-demand courses that are required for program progression? Do you have enough instructors to teach high-demand courses?

"It is easy to say students aren't following the plan or the process. But we have to look at ourselves and say, are we making it more difficult for students to get through? And what data do we have on this?" - Dr. Casey Bullock, Executive Director & University Registrar at Weber State University

2. Provide students with the information they need to build a successful term

With hundreds or even thousands of courses to choose from, students are often overwhelmed by the plethora of options. If available, provide students with program maps that show how a certain sequence of courses leads to on-time completion. Additionally, consider how the pairings of certain courses within a given term impacts student success. For example, balancing courses by different types of pedagogies (e.g., reading/writing heavy, lab courses) can help students from becoming overwhelmed in one particular area.

"The registrars office does advising at scale because we provide all of the information that students need. We are the advisors for students that don't meet with their advisors one on one. So we need to do a really good job of making sure the information is crisp, clear, understandable, and accurate." - Dr. Jessie Muehlberg, Associate Registrar of Curriculum Management and Scheduling at Stanford University

3. Solicit student feedback on course selection to build a student-centric schedule

In addition to examining historical enrollment trends to inform the course schedule, gather student feedback on course offerings to meet student needs. Consider asking students about their preferences in the following areas:

  • Time of day: What times would students prefer to take courses? What times are they unavailable due to other commitments?
  • Days of the week: What days of the week or sequences of days would they prefer to take classes?
  • Course spacing: How long of a break would they prefer between courses? Would they like to take courses back-to-back with few breaks, or would like they longer breaks between courses?

"How do you get that feedback loop from the student? How do you know what students want to take the next semester? That feedback loop hasn't been developed very well. We need one cohesive system that gives us information back on what we need to teach next and what is working and what isn't working." - Dr. Casey Bullock, Executive Director and University Registrar at Weber State University