Task Force Recommends Changes to Classroom and Academic Scheduling Processes

Changes Would Set New Policies and Planning Principles, Enable New Technology, and Centralize Classroom-Scheduling Function

The Task Force on Classroom and Academic Scheduling recently released its final report and five recommendations that will assist students in planning their academic careers, better utilize campus resources, and increase coordination of the classroom-scheduling function among academic and administrative units.

Commissioned by senior Institute leadership in October 2015, the task force was co-chaired by Joe Hughes, professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Steven Girardot, associate vice provost for Undergraduate Education. It also included faculty from all six colleges, students, and administrators who are involved in class scheduling. It was charged to conduct a comprehensive review of Georgia Tech's classroom- and academic-scheduling processes and protocols to determine a path forward that balances the needs of Georgia Tech students and faculty with existing campus resources — namely instructional space. The task force built on the work of the Academic Calendar Task Force, which completed its report and recommendations in Spring 2015.  

“The Task Force on Classroom and Academic Scheduling was the next logical step following the phased changes to the academic calendar over the past year,” said Rafael Bras, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “Education and learning experiences are changing fast. Our student population is larger and also changing quickly. The future will only bring more challenges and demands on our facilities as we seek to provide the best education to all our students. Our approach to academic scheduling must embrace a common-good approach to serve the needs of our community as a whole.”

Data gathering and feedback activities among faculty, staff, and students included extensive listening sessions and focus groups across campus, results from recent surveys, a literature review and benchmark data from other institutions, and current space-utilization and course-enrollment reports. The task force found that current scheduling practices place considerable burden on the Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. period and take little advantage of the remainder of the day, creating unused campus capacity and inefficiencies in space utilization. Many students, particularly undergraduates, expressed concerns about frequent schedule conflicts and a perceived lack of available classes, which may ultimately impact their ability to complete their degree requirements in a timely manner. Faculty, staff, and students alike expressed interest in technology-supported scheduling practices that are family-friendly and support work-life balance.

“The feedback process was vital and involved dozens of members of our Georgia Tech community,” said Hughes. “We heard about current pain points for students navigating the path to graduation and the importance of schedules that support the varying needs of our faculty, staff, and students outside of the classroom. Building on the work of previous task forces and on new data, our recommendations and a set of Guiding Principles have been designed to get at the core of those issues and lead to sustainable processes that will accommodate the Institute’s growing enrollment and other future demands.”

The complete task force recommendations are:

  1. Adopt a new daily classroom-scheduling template and associated policies that define allowable times for scheduling of individual courses, incorporating 15-minute breaks between classes.
  2. Develop policies and procedures that include the establishment of “anchor classes,” and best practices for scheduling and registration in Banner.
  3. Establish a permanent joint subcommittee of the Institute Graduate Curriculum Committee (IGCC) and the Institute Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (IUCC) to act on matters related to class and instructional scheduling.
  4. Merge the academic class-scheduling functions performed by the Registrar’s office and class-scheduling functions performed by Capital Planning and Space Management, and centralize both functions in the Registrar’s office.
  5. After a technology audit, make recommendations for strategic investments in technology that support class scheduling, registration, and related analytics.

“Adoption of the task force’s recommendations allows Georgia Tech to be an effective steward of taxpayer resources and best utilize our campus space,” said Steve Swant, executive vice president for Administration and Finance. “Moving forward, the realignment of the scheduling function and new policies will streamline administrative functions and improve overall institutional effectiveness.”

Although students and faculty are directly affected by scheduling decisions, the processes are not widely known or understood. “There is no ‘perfect’ schedule that matches everyone’s preferences,” said Hughes. “However, by focusing on common goals and working cooperatively, we believe that the current situation can be significantly improved for the Institute community.”

Recommendations are slated to be phased in starting during the next academic term, but will not impact registration and scheduling for Spring 2017. Campuswide town halls, along with focused faculty/staff information sessions, are planned during the coming weeks. (See below for details.)

Additional Information:

Town Hall Presentations (open to campus):

  • Tuesday, Oct. 25, 3 p.m. — Student Center Theater
  • Thursday, Nov. 3, 11 a.m. — East Architecture Building, Room 123 (auditorium)

Invitation-Only Sessions:

  • Monday, Oct. 17 — Academic Associate Deans Meeting
  • Wednesday, Oct. 19 — Deans and Vice Provosts Meeting
  • Tuesday, Nov. 15 — Faculty Senate
  • Wednesday, Nov. 16 — GTAAN
  • TBD — Classroom Schedulers (being organized by the Registrar’s Office)

 

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For More Information Contact

Steven Girardot, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Joe Hughes, Professor, School of Electrical & Computer Engineering