Teaching room occupancy rates can be a tricky measure to improve upon as students can tend not to go to all their timetabled activities and you are unlikely to have a stock of teaching facilities that perfectly fit the size of your classes.
Despite this there are a number of timetabling methods that if applied, can have a significant improvement to your institutions occupancy rate without you having to drag students to lectures or spend funds changing the size of your teaching facilities. This article looks at what I believe to be one of the most important:
- Don’t allow staff to request a specific teaching room
This one change could cause a huge improvement in your teaching space occupancy rate, as remove this restriction from your timetabling processes and you can assign timetable activities to rooms with suitable capacities – thereby improving your occupancy rate. Not only this, but by improving your occupancy rate you are reducing the demand on the largest teaching spaces, which are typically those under the most demand. I have provided a simple example below, to demonstrate the point.
This example, includes 6 classes called A,B,C,D,E,F and 5 rooms (Room 1,2,3,4,5). Everything is the same in both examples, except for in example 1 staff have been permitted to request rooms and in option 2 staff haven’t (as shown in the requested room column).
I have highlighted three of the cells yellow in both examples, to demonstrate that once the ability to request a room is removed the timetable classes can then be assigned to appropriately sized rooms. By doing this, not only does it improve the occupancy rates as shown in the occupancy columns, it also releases a timeslot in the largest room (Room 5) back into the timetable.
This sounds great but as you may already be thinking, people wont just go in any old room – and yes, for the majority if not all institutions you are correct. Therefore its worth combining this approach with enabling staff to request teaching equipment (i.e. a whiteboard) and/or a teaching room space type (i.e. a laboratory or a seminar room), during the timetable data collection stage and throughout the rest of the timetabling process including all adhoc timetable requests.
By doing this, staff still get the type of room they want (i.e. a laboratory) as well as the equipment they need to teach their class (i.e. a whiteboard) however the timetabling staff still have control over what room to assign and therefore can assign the class to the room with the correct space type, equipment and importantly the most suitable capacity.
As long as you have a number of rooms of a certain space type, varying in capacity (i.e. 4 labs, all different capacities) and these rooms typically all have the types of equipment generally asked for, the above process will work well but slightly less effectively, as you have added a timetabling restriction (i.e teaching room type/equipment). Asking for room type and/or equipment for timetable requests will be much less severe and damaging to your occupancy rate than allowing staff to request individual rooms – so its definitely the lesser of two evils from a space and timetabling management perspective!
This type of change, isn’t a small change – it involves a large shift in booking behaviour and there will be a lot of people who won’t initially want to change the way they book rooms for their classes (no-one likes change). However, as long as you provide staff with the ability to book a room that is a suitable space type, with the equipment they want – there are relatively few difficult arguments left and for those still against the change, you should be able to pick of their specific concerns without a huge amount of pain.
Communication is key to this process change being successfully pulled off, it is definitely worth while discussing the change through thoroughly with senior people from the academic as well as administrative sphere so they can understand why your are making this change and can then champion this process change within their department. This will also enable you to tweak the process change slightly in accordance to feedback you have received, as each institution differs from another and this isn’t a one size fits all strategy. All of this will help to further build the trust staff have in you and this process change, which will certainly go along way to ensuring this and future changes are as successful as possible.
I hope you enjoyed the article and found it helpful, please let me know you thoughts by adding your comments below. Also, I would be really interested to hear from those that have gone though this kind of change themselves, again let me know through the comments box below.
If you are interested in carrying out this type of change and would like to talk about it further, please feel free to contact me I am happy to provide free advice.
All the best