Under the umbrella of the Office of Classroom Management (OCM), lives the Scheduling Unit, resulting in a departmental structure that makes the unit unique amongst their peers.
"Other universities have their scheduling units nested under the registrar's office," said Nate Meath, reporting analyst. "We have a unique advantage being tied to OCM because we work closely with the people who design the space we schedule."
In fact, the Scheduling Unit is revered among higher education institutions. "We are well known for having a handle on scheduling and being cutting edge in scheduling technology," said Bob Quinney, scheduling system administrator. "People from other universities often ask us how we do things and how our office is set up."
But the unit didn't always operate this efficiently. Sandie Carlson, lead scheduler, will be in Scheduling for 20 years this December. "When I first started, we were scheduling rooms for classes on index cards and coordinating with people on the phone," she said.
Some of the Scheduling Unit's job duties include maintaining the integrity of the course data in PeopleSoft for the class schedule, course guide, and course catalog. They also manage the scheduling process and software for scheduling classes and finals each semester.
The Scheduling Unit is responsible for a multitude of processes and systems, serving staff, faculty, departments, and all campuses. The diversity of their work is challenging, but it's what makes it interesting as well.
"We go through the same processes every semester, but it's always changing and challenging. The sheer volume of our work is impressive," said Sarah Kussow, course and scheduling manager. "In each semester, we schedule more than 3,000 final exams, manage roughly 16,000 course sections, and schedule more than 3,500 events for the Twin Cities campus."
One major project that the team just completed is the acquisition of the newest scheduling software, Astra Schedule. The implementation process is underway currently, and it will affect the work of the entire unit, as well as all University campuses.
"This new software will have a positive impact on our work," said Bob. "It is all web based, so delivering the necessary information to people will be much easier. There is more functionality available with this software as well, including the ability to customize calendars and automate final exam scheduling. Currently, this is done manually for more than 3,000 final exams each semester."
Other benefits to this new software include an efficiency in all of the Scheduling Unit's processes, a decrease in the current workarounds they utilize, and the ability to have one scheduling software licence for all University campuses.
The training for Astra Schedule will begin in February. The Scheduling Unit and people they have
identified as "major academic power users on campus" will be trained on how to use the new system. "We are taking a train the trainer approach and expect most users to be trained throughout the spring and summer," Sarah said.
Another major part of the Scheduling Unit's job is to collect space utilization data for all campus spaces. They monitor how efficiently they use space and provide data to ASR managers and University administration.
Nate also conducts scenario planning each semester to determine workaround solutions to problems that may arise. For example, if a building is suddenly unavailable for a period of time, the Scheduling Unit is responsible for figuring out where to reschedule and place those classes.
"It's hard getting people to understand what we do," Bob said. "People have a really simple view of scheduling, but don't realize how complex it truly is. We try to optimize by providing more services for the University while using fewer resources. We do more, with less."
Sarah Kussow, course and scheduling manager
Kurt Neiswanger, events scheduler
Bob Quinney, scheduling system administrator
Sandie Carlson, lead scheduler
Nate Meath, reporting analyst
Christine Mounts, reports coordinator
Robert Wilson, finals/ECAS specialist