By Lisa Hunter

Course scheduling is a critical function at every institution of higher education, but is often given precious little strategic thought. Done with intention, however, the schedule can be an incredibly powerful tool for improving student outcomes. This article will look at the following areas:

  • The challenge: As faculty, we typically think of course scheduling from an individual, or departmental perspective—not as a tool to foster academic progression and ultimately student success. Developing the course schedule can be a frustrating and time-consuming task, often leaving those in charge of it feeling depleted and wanting to “get it over with.” 
  • Solutions: We need a more strategic approach. After all, when looked at from the student perspective, scheduling can be an incredible tool for increasing retention and graduation, reducing time to degree, and even increasing affordability.
  • Success Tools: New tools and advances in data infrastructure are making strategic course scheduling easier. And the measurable impacts are impressive.

For years, my only perspective on scheduling came from my own experience as a faculty member, and then head of an academic program. When I moved into administration—like so many academic leaders—I accepted the inherited wisdom of how things were done. Or more accurately, I accepted the practices that had accreted through years of habit.

But as I pieced together classes for general education and a first-year program, and then took on broader responsibility for scheduling and faculty load as an associate dean—I found myself casting about for a clearer strategy.

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