Department only teaching space is typically seen as a very positive provision by those departments that have it, providing space that can be dedicated to a departments teaching, personalised to reflect the departments ethos and importantly help to keep students within the departments area so that they can continue to make use of the resources available to them – i.e. staff offices, department specific libraries/study rooms/computer rooms etc.
However, the upside of department only teaching space is also the downside, as “department only space” in its principle limits the number to the teaching activities the department provides. If the demand does not match the available timeslots and capacity that the space provides, then space and capital is being wasted that could be provided and spent elsewhere to improve the institutions provision and positively influence the student experience.
Another point to consider is the effect an imbalance of department and central only space is having on the timetabling teams ability to produce a student experience focussed timetable. Too many department only spaces and not enough central spaces can have the reverse effect an institution is hoping to achieve if the demand for central spaces is too high. In this scenario, the timetable will struggle to accommodate the teaching activities at preferable times for those requiring central times as there simply isn’t the space to accommodate them.
I am not saying that the negatives always outweigh the positives, rather finding the balance between them is critical. To many departments only spaces that don’t match the demand, results in space and capital being wasted and the student experience effected. Conversely, not enough department teaching spaces and the institution is missing out on the potential gains they can bring to the student experience.
This is where teaching space utilisation data, plays it part and can help to provide a clear picture of how the department only and central teaching is being utilised as well as show what is the ideal supply of department teaching space in order to accommodate the timetable demand and limit space wastage.
Therefore there are two analysis techniques behind creating this picture – 1) Space type utilisation and 2) Space Type Demand
Space Type Utilisation
Finding how each department utilises its department only teaching space will indicate whether the available space is being well utilised and how it compares to other departments and the centrally available teaching space. To find this out, follow the “7) Department vs Central Teaching Space Analysis“ technique discussed in the “8 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Teaching Space Utilisation Data” or use the Education Space Consultancy Teaching Space Data Analysis Tool’s to automatically generate your space type utilisation data tables.
Once you have your headline frequency, occupancy and utilisation data for each departments teaching space compare each of their results including the results for the central teaching space. How do they compare?
If the central space frequency, occupancy and utilisation rates are considerably higher than a departments teaching space, this suggests there is there is an imbalance of supply and that too much department only teaching space is being provided for the demand.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that department space should be taken back into the central pool, rather the positives of having this department only teaching space should be weighed against the negative impacts it causes. Pinpoint the rooms that are causing the low utilisation rate and investigate the potential impact changing its provision would cause. If the room was centrally available, would it have a positive impact to the timetable? If so, how much? If the demand for a department only space is not greatly increased if this space is centralised, is this space actually required as a teaching space? What effects would there be if its allocation was changed to all involved?
You are looking to see whether the departments demand for the teaching space in question can be accommodated elsewhere and if so, what are impacts this causes – positives and negatives.
Similarly, a department with a very high teaching space utilisation rate in comparison to the centrally available teaching space indicates that extra department teaching space may benefit.
Again, this doesn’t therefore mean providing extra department teaching space, rather determine what the impacts of doing so would have – positives and negatives. Pinpoint the rooms that have very high utilisation and investigate whether the department has sufficient excess demand to warrant an additional teaching space? Can the central space accommodate the increased demand for a teaching space, if a space was reallocated as a department only teaching space? What impact would this have on the timetable? What are the benefits to the department of having an additional department only teaching space? Can these be measured?
In both scenarios, having the utilisation data enables an institution to clearly recognise there is a difference and then investigate why this is and whether the current provision provides the most benefits or whether a change would in fact be more beneficial. One point I have touched on in both scenarios is the importance of considering the demand and that is the second analysis technique I will now come to.
Space Type Demand
Knowing the space type frequency, occupancy and utilisation rates of department and central teaching space isn’t enough to determine whether either provision require additional space. Departments typically make use of the central space as well as their department space, therefore the utilisation rate of this department space does not typically provide a reliable indicator for whether additional teaching space is actually required. It may well be that a department has a very high utilisation rate for their own teaching space however an additional teaching space is warranted as there is no surplus demand being accommodated within the central teaching space.
Similarly it may well be that although the demand for central space is higher than the department teaching space in question, releasing it into the central will cause no increase in utilisation as there is no additional demand for this space within the institution.
Calculating space type demand relies upon using the timetable data, as no matter what the actual demand is for space if the timetable activities request a certain amount of space it needs to be provided. Therefore, I would typically first carry out a timetable vs actual utilisation investigation to determine how the timetable requests compare to the actual room attendance data, looking to resolve any differences and understand how this will affect the demand in the future.
Then I advise using the timetable data to determine how teaching space each department requires, of a certain capacity. This can be done by splitting the timetable data by department and calculating the total demand for teaching spaces of different capacities, similar to the process of creating a teaching space model. The process of doing this is beyond the scope of an article, however Education Space Consultancy can carry this out for you quickly and at an affordable price if you would prefer to save the time and effort of creating a model from scratch -see Timetable and Teaching Space Modelling. The principle is that you are looking for the departments peak demand for each size space throughout the academic year in order to ensure that any consequential amendments to the supply of teaching space can accommodate the peaks that occur during the year.
This modelling process will provide you with the maximum number and size of teaching spaces required in order to accommodate the timetable demand for each department. Therefore, this will now enable you to clearly see where there are differences and determine the positive and negative impacts changing the supply of department only an central teaching spaces could have on the institutions space utilisation and timetable. Again, these impacts should be compared against the potential positive impacts having department only teaching space can have in order to determine what the right decision for the institution is.
In combining both of these techniques you build a clear and accurate picture of how the teaching spaces are being used within the institution and what the demand is. This data provides the backing for discussions and allows an institution to weigh up the different positives and negatives can have and decide on a provision that best suits it objectives.
I hope you have found the article useful and interesting, remember to sign up to Education Space Consultancy newsletter to gain free access to the Teaching Space Utilisation Data Analysis Tool that will enable you to instantly analyse you teaching space utilisation data. As I mentioned, if you are interested in understanding your institutions teaching space demand please don’t hesitate to contact me, I have created Teaching Space and Timetable Models many times for many institutions so will be able to help you save the time and effort of doing this from scratch and provide the results you are looking for quickly and at an affordable price.
If you currently don’t carry out Teaching Space Utilisation Surveys at your institution or do but currently manage them internally or with another company, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me to discuss how Education Space Consultancy can offer you a professional, reliable and client focussed teaching space utilisation service that will provide you with the information you require, when you need it, at an affordable price. Also, remember to take a look at the Teaching Space Utilisation Survey and Consultancy page for more information on how Education Space Consultancy can help you gather this information and help you improve your institutions teaching space utilisation
Next week I will be posting another article in this series, looking at the eighth and final data analysis technique taken from the “8 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Teaching Space Utilisation Data” article. This time looking at Room Requirement Analysis so remember to look out for this or sign up to the Education Space Consultancy newsletter to be sent a link to this article via the fortnightly newsletter.
All the best