Most institutions survey their teaching space at least once a year in order to collect data on how the teaching rooms are being utilised. This data is then typically used to build strategies for making the most out of the teaching space available. However, usage typically fluctuates significantly throughout the semester and therefore similarly so will you results depending on which week you chose.
Therefore, when deciding on when and how many weeks to survey you want to clearly define what it is you want to get out of carrying out a survey. I have given some examples below of the different objectives and options, as well as the week(s) I would recommend as a result. I would be interested to know how you choose your survey week and if you have anything to add so please feel free to leave your comments at the bottom of the article.
- What is timetabled and what is booked
I start with this one, as I feel it is one of if not the most important objectives of a Teaching Space Utilisation Survey. This survey provides you with an opportunity to not only find out how well the teaching space is being used but also compare the actual usage against what is being booked. The difference can be startling and resolving it very rewarding so this is well worth being an objective, take a look at this article for more info Are There Rooms Timetabled But Not Used
In terms of when to survey, I would recommend choosing a busy week but it needn’t be the busiest and certainly not the first week. There is ultimately very little (if any?) excuse for booking a room when it isn’t needed therefore as long as you choose a week where a typical number of teaching bookings are taking place then this will provide you with the data set you are looking for. I mention not the first week as ultimately people go to the wrong room or bookings are still getting amended etc during this week, therefore this can lead to your results being much less useful.
I have also carried out more intensive all semester surveys and these have been very successful in providing a weekly check on who is and isn’t using the rooms they have booked. With the right communication and strategy, this can significantly speed up results and bring about rapid improvements. If you haven’t got the resources for this kind of survey, then consider running two survey per year instead – one in each semester. This will help you to keep collecting information you need to continue monitoring and force through positive changes.
- Same week each year?
This is often something that is missed, when it should be high on the agenda. Carry out a survey on the same week, or very close to the same week each year and you will be able to compare your teaching space utilisation results from one year to the next. Not just the headline results, but all of the data analysis techniques – i.e. department utilisation, timeslot utilisation and timetable vs actual usage. On the flip side, if you choose a different week each year you will be unable to meaningfully compare each year’s results and track performance from one year to the next.
As with the previous objectives I would choose a busy week, but as with objective 1 it needn’t be the busiest week.
- Fortnightly timetable
In some cases institutions have fortnightly timetables and in this case I would certainly recommend carrying out a fortnightly survey, one week after the next, if you are looking to use this data to make improvements to the timetabling practices. As with point 1), I would recommend a busy week but not one of the first weeks as this will allow the timetable changes and issues to have been resolved prior to the survey commencing.
- First or second semester?
If there is a choice between the first and the second semester, I would always recommend the first as this will provide you with the remainder of the academic year to solve any issues found and provide you with enough time to get in place new strategies that will improve the use of teaching space for the following academic year. The first semester is also likely to be the busiest and unlikely to be as effected by activities such as exams, coursework/dissertations and department trips.
- Both semesters?
I would suggest that the main reason for deciding to survey both semesters, is if you are looking to build a strong data set for promoting improvements to how the teaching space is being used in comparison to how it is being timetabled/booked. You can use the first semester’s survey to highlight issues that you can then look to resolve before the next semesters survey, at which point you can then use this survey’s results to determine whether the previous issues have been resolved. If not, you can then readdress them again looking to have them resolved before the start of next academic year.
It can be useful to decide upon this, once you have done your first semester’s survey. If the results highlight some significant issues, then it may well be worth the expense of carrying out another survey in the next semester to determine whether these issues have been resolved or instead they require more attention in order to ensure they are before the next academic year.
- The highest utilisation rate/teaching space requirements
If you want to find out what your peak utilisation rate during the academic year, then the busiest timetable week is likely to return the highest utilisation results. As with the previous points, the best place to find out what your busiest week will be is from the timetable data – the week with the most bookings, is likely to therefore be your busiest week.
I would however before deciding on this, recommend determining why you want to find out the institutions highest utilisation rate. If you are looking to use this data to plan future teaching space requirements then I would suggest that using this data alone will not enable you to do so accurately. Take a look at this article for more information on why – How Many Teaching Space Do We Require?
- How much of the teaching day?
I would always recommend that all of the teaching day is included, not just the days and times that are required for reporting purposes. If teaching takes place in the evening, or at the weekends then I would suggest these too should be included in the survey as this will help to ensure you have a full picture of how the teaching space is being used. The cost for the having this space open at these times in many cases is likely to be significantly more, with associated security/lighting/heating costs and certainly not less therefore ensuring it is included in the survey will help you to ensure you are getting the most out of all the teaching space available during the teaching week.
As well as the examples I have provided above there will be teaching space strategies that are specific to individual institutions that require a different approach to carrying out a Teaching Space Utilisation Survey. If you would like to discuss how you should survey you teaching space, please don’t hesitate to get in contact I am happy to provide you with my advise free of charge.
I hope you have found this article useful, it would be great to hear your thoughts on this subject so please don’t hesitate to let others as well as myself know by leaving your comments at the bottom of this article. Similarly if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me direct or leave them at the bottom of this article, I always reply to all questions/comments left.
All the best