“The big thing is to change
the culture. Professors used to
be able to lean on the depart-
ment to get their way.”
“The days of large lecture deliveries have changed,” says Dr. Collins, add-
ing that the university now needs a larger number of smaller spaces and
classrooms with technological capabilities.
“We, and many universities in Canada, are being slow to get on the
bandwagon and incorporate technology in scheduling,” he admits. “It’s
not an insignificant amount of money that’s involved, but it’s something
we should invest in.”
As Carleton’s experience showed, it’s not easy to change established
“In almost all universities, once the timetable is developed, it’s basically
just rolled over from one year to the next unless a disruptive force come
along,” says David Graham, provost and vice-president, academic affairs, at
Concordia University. Moreover, at many universities, each unit, depart-
ment, school or faculty schedules its own classes – making it difficult to
accomplish significant change.
And even appropriate software can’t resolve every situation. The Uni-
versity of Saskatchewan, for example, uses a program called Schedule 25,
says Ms. Sedgewick, the room scheduling manager. But since two-thirds
of the classes have pre-assigned rooms, the software can’t make optimum
use of the space on campus.
Ms. Sedgewick has been responsible for scheduling at the university for
a long time – long enough to recall how things were done before computers.
She is, in fact, a bit nostalgic for the old days. “It was great!” she says. “Back
in the day, we had far fewer special events on campus and the scheduling
could easily be handled by one person. We used to have these big drafting
boards, and you could just see at a glance how your space was used in dif-
ferent time slots.
“We used to do it with paper and pencil. It took time, but the person
doing the schedule – me – had a very good understanding of how space was
being used. When changes were necessary, you could tell where you were
going to find your answers because you had worked on it.
“I don’t think it took any more time to do it manually, because when
you use a computer program, all the data you enter has to be 100-percent
correct before you can run the program.”
Nostalgic or not, with the size of today’s enrolments just about everyone
recognizes the need for a computerized scheduling system. But as any uni-
versity going through the process will discover, there are other things to
consider as well. “Not every room is created equal,” notes Ms. Sedgewick.
And it’s hard to schedule classes in rooms that don’t meet current needs.
At Carleton, “we had a lot of not-great classrooms and we felt that was
probably affecting utilization,” says Anne Richards, the university’s assistant
director, space management and capital planning. For example, Carleton
had five rooms with up-to-date electronics in 1999. As a result of a con-
certed investment program, she says, “we now have 106.” A number of
classrooms were renovated and furnished with new desks or improved
accessibility to make them more desirable.
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