Biggest scheduling challenges in college and university
Few professions live and die by the calendar and deadlines like the education sector. Classes, terms, semesters and academic years all have defined lengths, with specific work required between start and end dates. Students are continually working towards assessment deadlines, while professors and research assistants have their own deadlines for publishing studies or texts. And then, there are those pesky meetings.
Whenever we speak to educators one of the most common things they always say is how rewarding it is to teach. But what happens when you just don’t have enough time for all your students? Or worse you spend so long arranging meetings, you don’t get time to actually help your students.
Finding time to meet all your students.
Ask anyone who works in education how their day is going and the answer is likely to be “busy.” Although there is little consensus on this, professors report that they
work around 60 hours per week on average
. Most professors and lecturers admit that teaching and researching a passion is enjoyable and doesn’t feel like work, but they also spend as much as 30 percent of their week in meetings or answering emails. These added demands can make it extremely difficult to find and schedule regular, predictable office hours to meet with students. That is especially worrying given that students view feedback from professors as critical to reaching their academic goals. Despite that, almost half of all students still only meet with their professors monthly or less.
The teacher with many hats.
Members of faculty often have to be jacks of many trades within the same day. Without an organized approach to
, it becomes impossible to block time slots and for specific tasks. Days quickly become a zombie march from class to faculty meeting to office hours. After a long day, there’s then grading, prep, and finally, some personal research to be done, if you’re lucky.
The endless email back and forth.
Other than deans, principals and maybe some department heads in larger educational institutions, academic and support employees don’t have assistants to lean on and take responsibility for their scheduling. For a workforce that’s already stretched thin, the additional back-and-forth of emails when trying to organize a meeting is a criminal waste of time that causes both
productivity and engagement levels
to nosedive. After all, the average meeting takes around 30 minutes of working time to schedule. The hours spent doing time-consuming and repetitive admin-like scheduling meetings rob faculty of valuable research, writing or preparation time. They also increase the likelihood that employees’ workplace dissatisfaction grows, leading to burnout, more time off sick, or higher turnover.
The role scheduling technology can play Managing the day-to-day. Today's best-in-class scheduling technologies are secure, private, fully integrated into the overall IT infrastructure and allow faculty, non-teaching staff and students to schedule their meetings quickly and easily, saving those thousands of wasted hours. Your faculty is likely to collaborate with colleagues from other institutions and even countries. Your administrative staff will have to meet with a vast range of partners, agencies and suppliers. So, make sure you look for a platform-agnostic scheduling tool, helping you efficiently schedule meetings with people who use entirely different email and agenda software. Some cutting-edge solutions also have time-zone adjustments baked into the product, which is especially useful when collaborating with colleagues in other states or countries or even coordinating with overseas sister campuses. Effective time management.
Scheduling technology is incredibly powerful when paired with time blocking. For example, a professor can create a
that grad students can use to schedule one-on-ones, but only during pre-allocated office hours. The best scheduling tools also employ machine learning to learn from users’ habits. A teacher could block out an hour each day to make sure they have time for a healthy lunch and the AI will preserve that time block in normal circumstances and only use the slot in an emergency or if a last-minute request comes in. Equally, the AI may learn that your usual 9-5 office hours can extend to 7 am or 9 pm once a week for calls with research colleagues in different time zones.
Empower remote learning. When COVID-19 numbers initially spiked and forced millions into lockdown, education institutions had to pivot overnight and transform their usual face-to-face teaching experiences into an online environment. Education insiders have posited that this could be a turning point for remote learning. Many teachers and students have discovered that they enjoy the experience more than they anticipated. This forced change has also shone a light on previous stigmas attached to the virtual classroom and questioned those attitudes. No longer limited by the availability of classrooms or lecture halls, professors can have students choose the most convenient time to hold classes or lectures. The time professors save by no longer having to walk from room to room, or board a plane to give a talk or a guest lecture at another university, provides the opportunity to spend more quality time with grad students. Again, one-to-one meetings conducted via conferencing software provide more availability and flexibility for both faculty and students. If you are an educator interested in reclaiming your day, check out the full Educator's Meeting Playbook.