Why Professional Schools Need an Integrated Academic Operations Platform

Topic: 
Integrated Academic Operations

Professional schools often choose to adopt point solutions to solve different needs: individual products for section scheduling, event scheduling, curriculum, and online course catalog management (often called the curriculum guide). These products are all manually integrated, often via flat files or in-house IT programmers writing code, into shadow SIS systems, which are prevalent in professional schools, and/or the campus parent SIS. Discordant product stacks, such as the example listed above, tend to exacerbate the amount of time end users must spend maintaining these separate systems, leading to frustration and confusion. 

Set your team Up for success with an integrated academic operations platform that includes the following elements:

1. Class Scheduling Platform

Most professional schools’ legacy scheduling processes involve the use of excel spreadsheets or homegrown systems to decide what sections are offered and to distribute the schedule throughout the day. They will then upload this information into a room scheduling tool, which may help with either making manual assignments or optimizing the physical space within the schedule. Oftentimes, professional schools operate in a fairly decentralized matter when it comes to deciding what sections are offered, oftentimes letting faculty decide, but decisions on whether times and rooms are assigned in a central or decentralized way can vary from campus to campus.

The main benefit of a class scheduling software platform is to better satisfy faculty requests, maximize facility utilization, avoid conflicts and save time by optimizing the schedule using the schools’ various scheduling inputs. Coursedog’s optimizer auto-assigns section times and rooms based on faculty preferences, section sizes, equipment requirements and seating layout. Coursedog also provides alerts when issues are found in the schedule, often resulting from overlooked human error, and recommends the best alternative time and room assignments while taking into account faculty and section level preferences. 

2. Event Scheduling Platform

While most professional schools have an existing room scheduling solution in place, it may become difficult to maintain once a separate section scheduling platform is introduced. Without these two sources being integrated, there are a host of challenges. First is that IT will need to figure out how to facilitate communication between the class and event scheduling systems, either directly with one another or through separate integrations with the SIS. Most institutions are very familiar with the fact that double the integrations mean double the time and maintenance costs.

The second issue that we see professional schools deal with is one of communication around the system of record for scheduling data e.g., room availability. Not only are discrepancies more likely to arise between the two systems as last minute changes will necessitate duplicate data entry, but this will beg the question of which system users should look to for accurate information. Lastly, there are significant benefits to the end user experience  of adopting one system. For example, a user belonging to an institution using separate event and class scheduling systems would need to initiate an email exchange should they want to schedule an event during a scheduled class time. This not only creates unnecessary back and forth between multiple individuals, but increases the likelihood of room double bookings. With Coursedog’s seamlessly integrated solution, room availability updates across apps in real-time, and automated workflows can be leveraged to approve event requests in rooms used for classroom scheduling. Here at Coursedog we’ve helped over 35 campuses in the last year successfully switch off of their legacy event scheduling system to our modern app. 

3. Curriculum Management Platform

Many professional schools’ curricular offerings are predominantly driven by faculty, resulting in the updating of course offerings or program structure being managed via emails and other tedious communication chains such as paper forms. This leads to a variety of challenges. First, it is difficult to enforce curriculum management rules over email, often resulting in last minute requests that have downstream impacts on scheduling and related processes. This makes the process stressful for administrators and can make building a well distributed class schedule near impossible. Second, it makes it very easy for curriculum approvals to be lost as folks may forget to approve a course or committees may lose a PDF. Coursedog’s curriculum workflows can automatically notify workflow participants when an action is needed, and stores all requests in one place so that none slip through the cracks. Third, it makes tracking and reporting for accreditation nearly impossible. By handling curricular changes via emails or PDFs, the school must spend hundreds of hours gathering a change log for accreditation purposes, as opposed to easily accessing this information in Coursedog’s interface. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, this product could necessitate three additional integrations be maintained: with the online course catalog/curriculum guide, with the SIS and with the scheduling solution. 

4. Catalog Management Platform

Historically, most professional schools have built out custom interfaces to allow students to explore courses, or have an isolated catalog solution. The biggest challenge with an isolated solution is that it requires duplicate and error prone data entry once curriculum changes pass through the curriculum management system. An ideal workflow, such as the one that exists in Coursedog, would have updated curricular offerings auto-magically sync with the online course catalog. We have found that homegrown systems, or isolated solutions, do not always provide the ideal user experience for students.  As Coursedog’s system supports a fully branded online catalog that matches the experience students expect, and instantaneously reflects curriculum changes, our catalog solution is one that both students and administrators can rally behind.