I often hear that to improve the utilisation of teaching space the student experience will suffer. This simple thought, causes huge headaches for those trying to promote better space efficiency within education, with student experience now top of the agenda for most if not all. However, is this even true?
Well, I have found that it does not need to be and there are in fact many ways to improve your utilisation of space and not effect, or in some cases even improve the student experience at the same time. This article looks at one method of doing this, by actually decreasing the number of activities timetabled into teaching rooms, whilst not effecting the amount or the type of teaching that takes place.
To do this you need to ask the question– Are timetabled activities actually taking place when and where I think they are?
It seems straight forward, as you would typically expect that all or perhaps 99% of teaching activities do actually take place when they are timetabled – but this is unlikely to be the case for the majority. In fact there may well be 100’s of hours’ worth of timetabled activities not taking place each week. This article, provides you with three steps for collecting, investigating and solving this issue, in order to improve your utilisation of teaching space.
Step 1 – Space Utilisation Survey
The first step is to collect a reliable data set and one way of doing this by carrying out a teaching space utilisation survey for at least 1 week of the academic year – 2 weeks provides a stronger dataset. This kind of survey (whether carried out by Education Space Consultancy, or managed internally) can provide you with a wealth of information that when combined with your timetable data, will pinpoint those activities that did use the rooms they booked.
Each one of these timetabled activities that are booked and not used, stops others from using the space they have been assigned, creating havoc for your actual space utilisation whilst your timetabled utilisation shows a much more positive picture.
In brief a survey will enable you to check when rooms were in use, how many students were attending and what class is using each room – for all rooms, every hour, throughout the survey week. (Future article coming soon on this subject!)
Step 2 – Finding out why
The next step is to find out why these timetabled activities have been booked but not used, I have included my thoughts on how to do this below:
• A good starting point is to put these results into a short, precise and educational report. Remember, that although you know what all this data means others may well not, so try not to be unnecessarily technical.
• If you have a space management committee or something similar, present them with your findings and the report.
• If you don’t have a space management committee, then another option would be to organise a one-off meeting with a few senior staff within your department to discuss what to do next. Having other people’s opinions and thoughts is what you’re looking for plus other senior staff are likely to get on board and help you – more voices are certainly better than one in creating change.
• Contact senior administration staff members within each academic department affected by the results by phone or even better in person and talk them through the findings and what they mean.
• If your timetable is managed centrally, then it would be best to start with talking the results through with your central timetabling team – there is a chance that a few, or possibly more, of these bookings not attended is down to a central mistake.
• Send a list of all the activities not attended to the relevant departments asking for a reply to each booking not attended within a set time frame – 2 weeks is probably enough. Getting this information is critical, as you will unearth plenty of previously unforeseen reasons.
You will hopefully then receive a wealth of information in reply, on why these bookings were not attended, such as teaching practices, personal traits, common misunderstandings, disliked rooms, disliked times – and many, many other reasons for why the timetabled bookings were not attended. Some will be very interesting!
Step 3 – Communication and solutions
This final step, is where you start to reap the benefits! For every reason you have been given for a timetabled booking not being attended, there should be a solution, it may take some negotiating and some time to solve, but it will be worth it!
As each reason is discussed and resolved with the relevant staff member(s), you will be reducing the chance of this mistake being repeated in the future. Effectively solve the reasons and you will reduce the number of bookings in the timetable for this and future years – as long as the message continues to be communicated effectively.
By removing these essentially false bookings, you are releasing potentially 100’s of hours back into the timetable, per week. This represents a lot of freed up space and enabling you to then either reduce the number of teaching spaces or cope with future increases in booked (and attended!) classes – thereby improving your utilisation rate.
All of the above should not have any negative effect on the student experience and in fact you may well find it has a positive effect. For example you can now cope with a planned increase in timetabled classes, or you can create that student friendly space everyone has been wanting out of a no longer required teaching room!
You might end up thinking “Now what to do with all this extra space…………?”
So, what do you think? Is there anything you would like to add? Please don’t hesitate to leave your comments and thoughts below or contact me directly, I am very interested to hear from you.
If you are interested in improving your teaching space utilisation rate and would like to find out more, check out this page for more information. Also, I am very happy to offer free advice on how you can carry out this kind of project so please feel free to contact me direct.
I hope you enjoyed and found this article useful and are still enjoying the continued summer weather!