Align class schedules with student completion

Nate Southerland of Salt Lake Community College defines academic scheduling as the process of choosing what classes to offer, when to offer them, and where and how to offer them to meet the needs of stakeholders.

The question under scrutiny is: how do you solve the scheduling puzzle at your institution?

In his presentation at the AACRAO SEM Conference last month, Southerland identified stakeholders as students, faculty, executive leadership, academic administrators, advisors, retention/completion office, budget office, facilities, information technology, employer, and public/legislators.

While many stakeholders impact academic scheduling, it is crucial for these stakeholders to collaborate to come to a shared consensus that positively impacts student success.

Current challenges facing academic scheduling include:

  • Academic departments don’t often work with each other to schedule general education and/or support courses for their students.
  • Departments and faculty tend to migrate classes toward preferred times and days (e.g., everyone wants to teach at 10 a.m.).
  • Students can’t always get the classes they need because of overlaps in required classes or because not all classes they need are offered at the same campus and time of day as their other classes.
  • Classes are sometimes cancelled very late because of low fill rates or inability to find a qualified instructor.

While it is easy to focus on one stakeholder within the problem, it is necessary to extend the conversation to be more inclusive of all stakeholders’ needs and how their needs shape academic scheduling. Take a Rubik’s cube for example: only solving one side of the cube does not solve the entire puzzle. There are many facets that need to be addressed in order to solve all sides of the cube (e.g., right class at the right time; work schedule; staffing; revenues and expenditures).

The overall takeaway is academic scheduling is a shared, collaborative activity. There must be communication and collaboration between multiple departments and stakeholders in order to create an effective academic schedule that impacts student success.

For more information on the study results, see the PDF from Southerland’s presentation at the 2017 Strategic Enrollment Management Conference.