Using Data to Develop a Strategic Plan for Classroom Supply and Management

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Jack Miner

Senior Associate Registrar at Ohio State University

Using Data to Develop a Strategic Plan for Classroom Supply and Management

Monday, July 07, 2014 8:00 AM - 9:15 AM


It must have taken a while to gather the necessary information to implement the broader strategic plan. What was the context leading up to it?

Jack Miner:

The Ohio State University was on a quarterly academic year, but we knew that we would eventually be moving to semesters. We had already been talking about making a plan for more effective scheduling and classroom utilization for about a decade. When the university made a final decision, about two years before the official conversion in the Summer of 2012, we knew enough and had already been planning for about 2 years.

Because we were so involved in it so early on, we [the registrars and academic services staff] made ourselves part of that decision to switch. We got to help the form that decision; the university made a steering committee which I served on, and I chaired a supporting committee which had a stated goal of fixing the existing space.

Would you say that Ohio State's size made the task more difficult? 

Miner:

It was a really massive effort. We have all the same problems as every other school, but those issues tend to get multiplied because of Ohio State's size. I would say, generally, that a bigger school might require more time to plan these sorts of changes, but we also tend to have more resources. A large school will probably have both the money and space needed to build an additional classroom that can accommodate 100 students, but a smaller school probably will not have those same resources available to them, at least not on demand. 

Can you elaborate a bit more on what techniques you used to figure out the best course of action?

Miner:

A big help for us was our colleagues at a number of similarly-sized AAU schools had made similar transitions. But considering growth expectations and enrollment trends, we needed to 'grow' the classroom space to accommodate 20% more volume. We did a study which helped us realize how we could more fully utilize the space: this was largely informed by specific data on what we were doing badly, like having very few classes on Friday, in the early morning, and in the late afternoon. 
When we looked at the data, we saw that just using Friday would almost make up for the supposed lack of space. So we did not have to build more classrooms, just use the space we already had. After, we got the faculty and other parties involved in the conversation. We said "we can use existing space more effectively, and we can save x million dollars." Saving money is always a good way to sell an idea. It also helped put the registrars in the driver's seats going forward. We presented our findings to the Board and the University Senate, who both approved our proposals. We developed scheduling guidelines for departments and colleges to spread around.

What positive changes have resulted, so far, from the scheduling changes?

Miner:

The biggest piece has been saving on space, but there has also been a big impact for students, which is something we didn't directly consider when making the changes. Before, students couldn't always get the courses they needed. Courses were concentrated in the middle of the day between 10:00 a.m. and+2:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It took them a long time to get the schedule they needed because of the frequent scheduling overlaps. Now that the class schedule is more spread out, it is easier for students to get their ideal schedule.

What do you hope attendees will take away from your session? 

Miner:

Obviously, the applicability of our process to this specific problem. But one of the great things we learned going through this process, I think, was looking at a larger strategic plan for classrooms. The problem forced us to step back and think in a more strategic way: are we delivering the right amount of courses electronically? Are they sustainable? Do they support discussion and collaborative learning? I hope attendees see the value of examining how they are doing things, even if they don't see something immediately wrong, just for the strategic value the exercise might yield.