Section Scheduling and Room Optimization: Defining and Enforcing Policies


August 25, 2020


Jimmy Montchal


Class Scheduling

So, how’s your fall semester going? We hope it’s going better than anticipated. But even if it’s not, hang in there. You registrars rock (seriously)!

Today, we’re talking about how section scheduling and room optimizing work together, and why it’s critical to document your rules or policies so you can actually enforce them. And even better, automate them.

Scheduling: Rooms Versus Sections

Many administrators think about room scheduling differently or separately from section scheduling, sometimes not thinking about the effect section schedules have on room occupancy requirements. With the COVID situation, your institution has developed new specific policies like time required in between classes and room occupancy restrictions. And these rules really have to be enforced for the safety of your faculty and students.

However, although you have room requirement policies, when you schedule sections, all bets are off. It’s likely that the information is on two separate systems that don’t talk to each other and can’t be easily updated. As you can imagine (or perhaps have experienced) this has a serious impact on staff workload. And just at a time when you really need all hands on deck doing other things COVID related.

Scheduling Policies: Can’t Live With Them. Can’t Live Without Them.

If your institution is like many, you have some unspoken policies, knowledge that’s passed on by word of mouth. Or maybe you rely on informal policies that require building excel worksheets or sending numerous emails to manage exceptions. Sounds convoluted and messy, right?

To make adjustments and try to honor these policies, you may not have a good process to put policies in place at the point of scheduling and then enforce them. Worst case scenario, there may not be any formal policies at all.

Navigating in a COVID World

The important scheduling policies right now are new best practices during the pandemic: time in between classes, classroom capacity, meeting restrictions, lab rules. How do you enforce these policies when students are registering? In a way that’s not manual or cumbersome, but instead transparently and automatically with a defined workflow that has the right people involved.

For example, Virginia’s Blue Ridge Community College has agreements with high schools and other partners that allow for certain classes at certain times. “Being able to implement that centrally with the ability to define and enforce rules eliminates a lot of complexity and workload for faculty and administrators and makes sure they are not just scheduling classes based on their own preferences,” explained BRCC CIO Steve Young.

Beyond Basic Room Optimization

Some administrators may think they've gotten a hold on scheduling by using basic room optimizer products but still face challenges they thought these tools would solve. Staff have likely not considered the impact of section scheduling in concert with room optimization, the automatic or case-by-case enforcement of policies and rules, and the consideration for instructor preferences and course/section relationships.

The optimum scheduling solution can also handle last-minute change requests and transparently manage approval workflows. These can be routed though email with the ability to loop in non-university personnel (like when state approval is needed). Last (but not least) there are reporting and course-demand projections to facilitate more data-driven decision making.

What’s Next? A Best Practices Webinar!

We’ve been spending a lot of time talking to our customers, especially those on our Customer Advisory Team, to find out what’s happening on their specific campuses. Our goal is to share what others are doing and develop some best practices for this ever changing COVID world.

So, we’re planning on holding a webinar soon with a panel of our clients to share what’s working for them (and what’s not). Should be a good one. We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, remember that Coursedog can help you by running potential scenarios or providing a free analysis of your schedule. Stay the course, registrars. You’ve got this.

What You Will Learn