Timetable changes: Measure, manage, and reduce
We all know a timetabler’s job is never done and the only constant is change, but do you actually measure just how much is changing, and make any formal efforts to reduce this? While you may not be surprised, those outside of the timetabling team are unlikely to appreciate the scale of the problem unless there is a proper business process for logging, classifying and reporting on timetable changes, which could then also make it easier to put in place measures to improve the situation.
We know from comments on the National Student Survey (and others) that the issue of changing timetables is a serious one for students, and it stands to reason that this must be so. Even if you are able to communicate changes effectively and far in advance, students – like everyone else – have lives outside of classes, and changes to otherwise stable and recurring events will be a source of frustration, and complaints are likely to end up being directed at whoever is perceived to be responsible for the timetable, even though chances are that the reasons for those changes are outside the control of the timetabling team.
The first thing to do is to start logging timetable changes. The easiest way to do this is to officially stop taking ad hoc verbal or email requests for timetable changes, and use some sort of electronic form to capture timetable change requests. The following template shows how such a form could be structured for staff making timetable change requests:
At the same time, you should also be capturing how (and if) the change was implemented. The following table shows a template for how timetablers can then measure how they completed a change request:
Having the above information stored for each change request will provide you with a lot of good data to create reports on the frequency of changes, measuring different departments against each other, average time to complete changes, and the overall effect of changes on students. Reports like these could go a long way helping your institution address the underlying reasons for change requests and to ensure they only happen when necessary.