Answering this question is a part of space utilisation analysis that I particularly enjoy as the results can be fantastic, reducing pressure on the timetable and creating more usable teaching space all without spending any investment in changing space or impacting on the students. It isn’t often win/win’s are presented when looking at space utilisation and timetabling together, but I believe this to be one of them.
If your institution hasn’t done this before i.e. compare you actual frequency against your timetable frequency, then I would suggest there is a good chance there is a significant difference, as I have found that without continual monitoring of whether teaching rooms are actually being used when they are booked, the control and communication over this issue is lacking. If this is the case – then this article should hopefully be of great interest to you and you may well have a great opportunity to improve the available of your teaching space.
I feel this example really helps to frame the problem and also highlight the potential gains that resolving this issue can resolve – If you have 2000 hours timetabled a week and 20% aren’t being used, that’s 400 hours wasted! If you teach 09-17:00 each week (i.e. 40 hours a week), that’s the equivalent of 10 rooms being booked and not used every hour of the teaching week.
That is a huge amount of wasted space, most institutions would snap your hands off if you offered them 10 free extra teaching space! 20% isn’t an inflated figure, I have seen many cases where the percentage of rooms booked and not used is much greater than this. By solving this difference, you are making extra teaching space available without making extra teaching space!
As with the previous articles in this series, if you are unsure of how to compare your timetable and actual (i.e. space utilisation survey) teaching room frequency data it would be worth looking at the first article in this series that goes through why and how to gather the data your require. (8 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Teaching Space Utilisation Data)
So, lets start with how to investigate this difference between the timetabled and actual frequency rate.
To begin with, I typically create a list of all the teaching activities that haven’t been attended during the teaching week i.e. by comparing the timetable data with your survey data. Ensure that this list details the module or activity name and the department or person that booked it – if all your bookings are labelled by department I would use this rather than the person – as its not always the person that booked the room that used it. Then split this list by department and you will now have an idea of how many bookings each department requested and did not use throughout the survey period.
Information to include –
- Activity Name
- Teaching Room Booked
- Activity Start Time
- Activity End Time
- Teaching Weeks Booked
To resolve these issues, I typically advise that they are first discussed with the timetabling team as there may well be some cancellations etc that simply hadn’t been actioned in time despite the request having been received prior to the activity time or there may be activities that have been incorrectly booked by accident. Make a note beside each of those activities where the reason or error has been found, explaining how or why.
Then for the remaining, discuss these with each Department and find out what the reasons are for each activity having booked a room and not used it. This typically provides a huge range of interesting reasons! and its important that each is noted against the activity that it correlates to as the next step is to then consider and find a solution that will solve each reason and ensure that rooms are not booked when not needed in the future.
Actually solving each reason is beyond the scope of this article as the number and types of reasons I have encountered for rooms being booked and not used seems to be endless! However, I strongly advise engaging with the persons that are booking the rooms and not using them, explaining why you are investigating these instances and the advantages that finding a solution will bring. More often than not, once people realise that this will make a genuine improvement they will engage and find the solution for you, plus make sure it is put into practice.
Why would people want to engage with this? By doing so, their timetable can improve.
The reality is that if rooms are booked and not used – no one else can use them, as the timetable team believes they are being used. Therefore by removing these false bookings from the timetable, it releases the space pressure on the timetable enabling an improved timetable to be created. The more teaching space there is available, the better chance there is that the timetable reflects the student and staff demands passed onto the timetable team. This message is simple and typically everyone can relate to it and understand how improving the timetable accuracy will improve the timetable.
Alternatively, if you are looking to reduce the number of teaching spaces this is an ideal method as you are essentially increasing the availability of teaching space, without creating more space. Reducing teaching spaces is often seen as a good thing by those that are effected, however clearly stating why and what advantages this will bring them will help them to still want to engage and get on board with resolving the highlighted issues.
This data analysis technique and investigation progress can bring fantastic results and I will finish this article, by coming back to a point I mentioned at the start and always come back to throughout the process when considering solutions- If the students and staff know an activity isn’t taking place, why doesn’t the timetable reflect this?
If you are interested in teaching space utilisation surveys and would like to know more, take a look at the Education Space Consultancy Teaching Space Utilisation Surveys and Consultancy Page. I would also be very happy to talk with you about how Education Space Consultancy teaching space surveys and consultancy can benefit you and your institution, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me directly if you would like to discuss this further whether this be via email, phone call or in person.
If you would like assistance with comparing your teaching space survey and timetable data, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me I would be very happy to help.
Before you move away from this article, remember to sign up to the Education Space Consultancy newsletter and not only will you receive a fortnightly newsletter full of useful information you will also gain access to the resources on the Education Space Consultancy resources page. On this page you will be able to access and download the Education Space Consultancy Teaching Space Utilisation Data Analysis Tool that provides you with a number of data analysis results automatically generated as soon as you enter your survey data.
If you have any comments or thoughts on space type analysis, please don’t hesitate to add these in the comments field below this article. I always welcome feedback and it would be great to continue discussions on this topic here.
All the best