For most if not all institutions there is a strive to improve upon what already exists in order to make the most out of available resources and provide students with a continually improving education and experience. Timetabling is no exception, with a continual push to provide an improved timetable experience for staff and students as well as an improved teaching space (and time) utilisation rate.
It is no longer good enough just to provide a timetable that works – although this in itself can in some cases be nightmarishly hard as it is – a timetable must now factor in other constraints as well in order to compete with student expectations, such as maximum teaching days, maximum break between lectures, lunch breaks, research days (amongst many other possible constraints) whilst also maximising the utilisation of the teaching space and time available in order to minimise costs. This rapid increase in expectations has created the need for strategic, institution wide thinking when it comes to timetabling as just simply carry on “with what we did last year” is simply no longer good enough.
This has led to many institutions creating a Timetable Strategy. This document states the University’s timetabling related objectives, how they will achieve these objectives and how success will be measured. However in order to create a Timetable Strategy, it is critical that an institution fully understands all the different processes, policies and solutions it currently has in place – as without this, it will be impossible to create objectives that are are both realistic and achievable. Once an institution knows exactly where it is now, it can plan how to get to where it wants to be.
For example, a University’s objective may be to improve it student experience rating by”x” amount, for the timetabling related questions (certainly one question Q13 and potentially several Q14 and Q15) by 2020. This is a typical objective, however is it is realistic or achievable? We have no idea. We can’t tell if an institution can achieve its objectives unless we know where it is now and what it plans do.
A Gap Analysis
If you know where you want to be…….or at least where your institution wants you to be, then I would always advice making sure you fully investigate where you are now first and use this to plan how you are going to get to where you need to be – in the form of a detailed and thorough Gap Analysis- “A technique that businesses use to determine what steps need to be taken in order to move from its current state to its desired, future state.” Business Dictionary.
A Gap Analysis is a fantastic way to document what needs to be done, clearly outlining where you are now and what issues you must overcome and the resources required, if you are going to be able to meet each objective. Think of it as a road map, you wouldn’t (at least hopefully you wouldn’t) set off on a 200 mile journey to your desired destination if you didn’t know where you were in the first place or how you were going to get there. If you did, there would be a good chance you wouldn’t make it to where you want to be and if you did it would certainly have taken you a lot longer, required many more resources than actually required and a good slice of luck. If there is one thing with timetabling you don’t want to have to rely on, its luck.
This Gap Analysis can be your “How To” guide, that clearly outlines how each objective is going to be achieved but also highlights any potential issues – so they can be addressed now rather than later – thereby ensuring that any set in stone objectives are realistic and actionable, rather than hopeful targets that look good now – but look terrible on everyone when they aren’t met.
I am currently carrying out a project very similar to this for Edinburgh Napier University and will be meeting with different University timetabling stakeholders over the coming weeks in order to gather information on all the different processes, policies and solutions that affect, or are affected by, the timetable. I will be using this information to create a detailed consultancy report that includes a Gap Analysis, detailing where the University is now and what is required in order for the University to meet its objectives. My focus for this project, being to ensure that the University makes the best use of its resources in order to reach its objectives plus to highlight any potentiality issues at this early stage.
If you would like to know more about this type of service or are thinking you may be interested in taking advantage of my consultancy services to help you take the next steps in improving your institutions timetable – again please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am always happy to talk, meet and/or provide more information with no commitment required.
On the other hand if you are interested in creating a Timetable Strategy for your institution but would just like some free advice or discuss some issues you may be having, I am also always happy to provide my advice for free so please don’t hesitate to get in contact.
I hope you have found this article useful and interesting, if you have anything to add or would like to discuss this topic further pleas leave your comments below. I always reply to every comment left and it would be great to continue this discussions. If you enjoyed this article, remember to check the blog page to find even more articles and to sign up to the Education Space Consultancy newsletter – every person that signs up not only receives a fortnightly newsletter with plenty of free information and news, but also access to all the resources on the Education Space Consultancy Resources page – for free!
All the best