Office of the Provost

January 23, 2018

Spring courses to be assigned definite time, classroom before registration

Philip J. Reid

Each quarter, the University offers approximately 4,000 courses on the Seattle campus. With that many courses, a finite number of classrooms and growing enrollment, scheduling has become complex and difficult. In one recent academic quarter, nearly one-third of classroom assignments were made long after the requests were made – in some instances, just prior to the first day of classes.

But no longer.

When students registered for their winter quarter classes, every course in the time schedule had an assigned time and classroom – for the first time in 17 years. And, for spring quarter, all courses will have assigned classrooms well before registration begins in February – thanks to a new classroom scheduling policy that will be implemented across the Seattle campus.

Over the last three years, we have worked to find better ways to schedule courses. We surveyed faculty and students, conducted extensive focus groups and interviews, and consulted with numerous campus groups. Faculty and students were overwhelmingly critical of existing practices and advocated for change.

In the worst cases, late classroom assignments meant students could end up double-booked, prompting them to choose between classes. Ultimately, this scheduling could cause students to delay graduation because they missed required courses that are offered infrequently. Last-minute scheduling is just as frustrating for faculty teaching a course or staff providing classroom resources.

In response to this demand for change, a new classroom scheduling policy was developed in consultation with faculty, students and staff. Mathematics, Political Science and a few other units participated in the successful pilot for winter quarter by scheduling their courses well in advance of registration. (All other winter courses were scheduled by the time of registration.) The two main components of the policy are:

  • Academic units asked to distribute their course requests across a 10-hour teaching day.
  • Classes offered from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. employ standardized time/day combinations (so-called “block scheduling”).

In preparation of full implementation in spring, the Office of the University Registrar has been working collaboratively with units, schools and colleges adopting these new policies. I’d like to thank Matt Winslow, senior associate registrar, and Kendra VanDusen, time schedule team supervisor, for their collaborative efforts in implementing the new policy.

The lives of UW students, faculty and staff are busy and complex. Through more predictable scheduling and fuller use of time and space available for courses, we can decrease frustration and uncertainty while meeting the increasing demands for classroom space. Thank you for your support and understanding as we all adjust to this new policy.

Philip J. Reid, vice provost for Academic & Student Affairs and professor of Chemistry, is responsible for initiatives and services that improve the UW student and faculty experience. His portfolio includes development and support of modern pedagogy, instructional space planning, alignment of student curricular and co-curricular activities, student success and retention analytics, development and deployment of IT systems that support teaching and learning, support of enrollment management, development and support of faculty development initiatives.