Streamlined timetabling process a great outcome for students and staff

Published: Thursday 22nd September 2016

Photo of standing lecturer surrounded by students sitting at table.

No longer a niche term in higher education, ‘Lean’ is getting runs on the board as a process improvement methodology at ACU.

Its reputation as a systematic and evidence-based approach to improving an existing process was reinforced recently in a timetabling process improvement initiative.

Earlier this year Nik Linnell, Manager of Timetabling, Examinations & Results, led a review of the timetabling process driven by a simple but powerful problem statement: “timetabling takes too long for all stakeholders”.

Lean methodology – with its focus on eliminating waste and improving process time and efficiency – proved to be the ideal approach for looking at waste within the end-to-end timetabling process. Lean advocates respect for people who are closest to the work and involving staff in identifying and solving problems. And in this case, staff had plenty to say about what could be improved in the process.

All stakeholders saw the value in having Schools spend less time drafting their timetable. Students had also been telling us they wanted their timetable earlier.

But to get there some key issues had to be addressed from the perspectives of students, teaching staff, Schools (including professional staff), Faculties and the broader University community:

  • Waiting – the linear approach to collecting data meant that professional staff in Schools were engaged in a timetabling process for 13 weeks.
  • Extra processing – double handling and duplication of data was frustrating and time consuming, especially just before the start of semester.
  • Defects – the quality of the timetabling data could be improved.

The results of the review were a win for staff and students:

  • A phased concurrent approach to data collection means Schools are now timetabling for 5 rather than 13 weeks.
  • The unnecessary provisional timetable is no longer produced.
  • The timetable can be released four weeks earlier.
  • Staff allocations can be added to the timetable right up to the start of semester without double handling
  • More focused intensive training sessions have been provided.
  • In future students may be rewarded with early access to class allocations for enrolling early.

If you would like more information on using Lean to improve processes in your area, please contact the Service Matters Improvement Team. To learn more about Lean, see the Service Matters website.

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