1 – Complex problem-solving needs
Modern Higher Education is undergoing through big changes trying to adapt to new demands.
Higher Education is currently undergoing (deep) changes which require fast adaptation to new demands. These changes are triggered not only by the growing of curricular offer – that leads to an inevitable competitive environment between the institutions – but also by an increasingly well informed and demanding population of students.
It’s vital to understand that the curricular growth and a wider flexibility of choices that students have nowadays, results in increased logistical problems for the Higher Education Institutions.
One should also bear in mind that the consequences of poor logistical management extend to more than a direct deterioration of the teaching quality, jeopardizing as well other stakeholders besides students, such as academic staff members, non-academic staff members, researchers and university managers.
One of the most problematic logistical challenges commonly found in all size Higher Education Institutions, is planning the schedules. On one hand, it’s a rather intricate problem to solve. Avoiding clashes between very different stakeholders such as students, academic staff members and classrooms, among others, it’s a very difficult problem on its own.
When you add the complexity of conciliating curricular structure rules with the time preferences and constraints, the available time spaces suddenly become very few. On the other hand, because it affects hundreds and even thousands of people sometimes, the timetabler is forced to manage divergent interests and to take upon himself to deal with a lot of sensitive problems.
2 – Software as an evolution tool
It’s precisely in these situations that a software solution can really lead to the evolution of processes.
The only way to get better results, that will ultimately result in an improved teaching experience for both students and academic staff members, as well as increase the capacity of the Institution to comply with all the demand, is to introduce a specialized tool to manage in a fair and transparent way the scheduling process.
It is not efficient to place on an individual or even group of individuals the responsibility to create the timetables for whole the institution. Not only will it consume a huge amount of time, but also, chances are that the solution will not have the needed quality.
Bear in mind that almost everytime, people assigned to the task of creating the schedules are not doing it full time, but will rather have to accommodate this difficult task with their other responsibilities. In that sense, if getting a possible solution within the available time is hard, getting a good solution is close to impossible.
Yet another problem arises when doing the schedules manually that affects directly the evolution of the processes. If the task is performed by a single individual, the institution is at risk of having a real big problem in the future when that person retires.
The key to guarantee sustainable healthy growth is to achieve economies of scale, and the only way of doing that is to create highly efficient processes that work consistently and almost independently.
Of course, it will always be required some level of decision making from the process manager, specially to deal with the more sensitive aspects of conciliating the several stakeholders´ preferences. However, having a tool to deal with the logical and mathematical part of the problem, leaving the manager to address only the “human” issues, is a huge help.
Furthermore, it makes it that much easier to delegate the process between people when the time comes to change internal responsibilities.
The impact of scheduling should never be underestimated. As stated before, it affects not only the teaching quality for students and academic staff members, but also the capacity of the Institution to evolve and grow.
Higher Education Institutions make part of one of the most dynamic activity sectors, constantly producing new knowledge and new minds that will help to shape the future.
Scheduling should not be a barrier, especially when there are powerful tools to solve this problem.