Timetable activity class sizes are a critical element required for producing both a working timetable and a timetable that effectively utilises the teaching space that is available. The direct and indirect impacts of inaccurate or missing class sizes can be severe, to the students, staff and the institution. So what are these impacts?
Timetabled activity class size, smaller than required?
The impact of this is typically very noticeable, as if the timetable activity class size is smaller than the number of students that will be attending, there is a risk that this activity will be timetabled into a room with a smaller capacity than is required. The outcome of this is potentially overcrowding, with students forced to stand or sit on the floor to attend the activity, or if requiring equipment; being unable to attend.
The consequences of overcrowding to an institution are often significant, as any instances are typically remembered by students and fed back via student experience feedback. This therefore has the potential to have a very significant and negative impact on the ratings a student assigns a course.
Timetabled activity class size, larger than required?
The direct impact of this is less noticeable to students and staff (and therefore more common), as if a class size is larger than required then typically this will result in the activity being timetabled into a room that is too large.
Larger than required class sizes, can however have a severe impact on the timetable as they create an artificially higher demand for larger teaching space. This causes an increase in pressure on the larger teaching space, reducing the number of potential timeslots that activities can be timetabled into within these spaces. The impact, is that this increases the risk of a working timetable not being produced or forcing the timetable to be unable to address student and staff preferences; impacting on the student and staff experience.
Ultimately this artificial demand for larger teaching spaces, due to larger than required class sizes, is often viewed as the real demand. The result of this can be severe, with institutions planning and constructing teaching spaces that reflect this artificially higher demand rather than the real demand, wasting significant resources.
No timetable class size at all?
If a timetable activity has no class size at all, this is typically due to a person requesting a specific room for an activity. This therefore solely relies on this person to be requesting a suitable sized room, removing the judgement of those that manage the normal room allocation procedure and therefore potentially running the same risks as those activities with class sizes that are smaller or larger than required.
In addition, those that manage the room allocation procedure do not have the information to move this activity effectively, as they will be unaware of the size of room required. The only options available, are to move this activity to the same or larger capacity space (worsening space utilisation per move) or to contact the person who requested this activity to determine a suitable move (slowing and complicating move process considerably).
Perhaps the most severe impact is that activities without class sizes, prevent an institution from being able to utilise the timetable data for planning the estate, as predictions on the size of the rooms required cannot be accurately indicated. This can then result in institutions providing teaching space for the perceived demand, rather than the actual demand that could be determined via utilising accurate timetable data. There is therefore a high risk in this scenario of significant funds being spent ineffectively.
At this time of year each institution is typically in the process of starting to roll over or creating a new timetable for the 17/18 academic year, this therefore is a useful period to consider how planned/predicted class sizes are collected and used in the timetabling process. I will therefore be following this article with another next week that looks at some of the methods we typically recommend for determining and improving timetable class size accuracy.
If this is something you are interested in improving at your institution and would like to know more, please do get in contact. I am happy to offer my advice and we do provide a timetable strategy consultancy service that focuses on improving timetabling and effectively resolving issues such as inaccurate/missing class sizes; Timetable Strategy Consultancy.
I hope you have found this article helpful