Optimizing the schedule is a hot buzzword in Higher Ed. The idea of clicking a button, building the perfect schedule and sitting back and relaxing is quite compelling. But in practice, few schools have truly gotten an optimization to work well for them, and in a lot of cases it can be more work to set up than the benefit of running it. Especially with legacy vendors, we estimate greater than 50% of clients never run a good optimization at all. Why is it that folks rarely actually save time and improve resource utilization with these solutions? Often, it feels like they are just a hard-to-use system to prevent room double-bookings. But can you do better?
It’s time for a history lesson. Why are room optimization solutions so prevalent… and bad? Well, dating back to the late 1990s when some of the earliest tools hit the market, scheduling was extremely decentralized. As in, faculty & departments would just request whatever times and in some cases rooms that they wanted, and they would usually get them. So room optimizer solutions were built to take in a bunch of crazy, unstructured preferences and then optimize them the best that they could. And the funny thing is, they actually do that pretty well. Bad data in, bad data out.
Recently, though, schools have begun to re-conceptualize scheduling as much more than optimization of a cesspool of diverse preferences. Universities started to 1) Think more about student success and recognize research that suggests booking all classes in primetimes, and or having a lack of understanding of course demand can decelerate degree velocity; 2) face even more of a space crunch, and in some cases become incentivized by state legislatures to improve space utilization and 3) Quite simply… administrators had less time. More projects, more integrations to manage, and did we mention… COVID?
So what does a modern scheduling solution include that perhaps a legacy room scheduling system might not have?
And here at Coursedog, we’re proud to be very upfront about expectations in terms of what you can expect from an optimization.
Here’s some tips to consider whether an optimization is helpful for your campus: