Evaluating the need for optimization of academic planning

Nicolás González y Camila Acevedo Planning
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Operating costs in higher education have been increasing in recent years due in part to inefficient management by educational institutions when confronted with rising enrolment and drop-out rates.

One of the major challenges faced by institutions is how to deliver their full program offering, as sections with insufficient student numbers drive rising administration costs. The lack of a strategic approach to this problem may have serious consequences, resulting, for example, in long-term allocation of large classrooms to sections with small group sizes.

Good planning involves coordinated growth in the services offered and the learning space available, but in the absence of software to support it, the process relies on trial and error. This blog article will help you to evaluate the state of your academic sections and to identify actions for each with a view to more effective allocation of facilities.

If you are looking to conduct a quick assessment of the infrastructure planning needs of your institution, our proposed exercise will be of great help to you as you begin to implement changes. As covered in the blog article Change Management in Higher Education, detailed planning is required in order for the work team to be able to achieve their targets.

Our goal: efficient compacting

Also known as mitigation of undersized groups, this is the practice of determining the minimum number of class sections (groups or units) needed according to the number of students enrolled and the academic criteria of the institution in order to ensure optimum resource usage.

An effective academic planning software package will apply the standards of the institution and simulate the best options for organization of sections. We therefore recommend that you conduct an assessment of your sections and identify potential opportunities for improvement that a digital solution could provide.

Four quadrants to analyze enrolment and availability

We propose the following exercise: create a table listing all of your sections, the number of students enrolled, the classroom that they will use, the maximum capacity of that classroom and the available space or the number of free slots in each section (i.e., the difference between the number of students enrolled and the classroom capacity).

For example:

Graficos-planificacion-academico-02

A graph with four quadrants can then be created on which each of the sections can be plotted based on the information concerning enrolments and the availability of spaces on the programs offered on a given campus. For clarity, we recommend that you base the axes on the average values for the campus and period in question.

Axes: Visualization

Available classroom space is shown on the “x” axis (ranging from 0 to the maximum number of spaces, with the average as the center-point)

Student numbers are shown on the “y” axis (ranging from 0 to the maximum number of students, with the average as the center-point)

(The axes cross at the average of the two values)

The frequency of each Spaces-Students pair in the schedule can be plotted as a bubble chart where bubble size increases with the frequency of each pair.

Organization of the data into four quadrants simplifies the analysis and facilitates the definition of a clear methodology for each case.

Academic Planning graph1Academic Planning graph2

Quadrants Actions

The quadrants are labelled in a counterclockwise direction.

Academic Planning graph3

Bonus:

Add color coding: institutional standards

Following on from the above analysis, the use of color helps to visualize the distribution of sections and to identify those that are poorly planned:

Academic Planning graph4

Conclusion

This method for the rapid assessment of academic sections and institutional facilities will enable you to determine whether the implementation of an intelligent solution to control the distribution of programs and sections would be of benefit. With this in mind, u-planner has developed the Planning vertical which, through its u-planning and u-booking solutions has achieved excellent results for Aliat Universidades in Mexico and the Instituto San Ignacio de Loyola (ISIL) in Peru.

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