Course scheduling receives Lean Higher Education review

April 18, 2023
By: Maureen Stokes

The first week-long Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) planned this spring was held April 3 to 7 with members of the campus community reviewing and analyzing the course scheduling process using Lean Higher Education methodologies.

Co-facilitated by Dr. Bill Balzer, industrial-organizational psychology professor and author of Lean Higher Education, and Jesilka Cortez, chief procurement officer, the RIE team reviewed the current state of course scheduling utilizing data sets and common practices along with survey data from over 700 students. The nine-member team included faculty chairs Matthew Ortoleva (English), Sam O’Connell (visual and performing arts), Jennifer Hood-DeGrenier (biology) and Meghna Dilip (chemistry); Julie Chaffee, the Registrar; Ray Lewis, dean of liberal arts, education and interdisciplinary studies; Sarah Strout, assistant vice president of institutional research; Jonathan Walker, director of internal controls and risk assessment; and Julie Carmel, director, student accounts/assistant bursar. Provost Wims, the RIE executive sponsor and Kathleen Eichelroth, chief financial officer and event sponsor, were also in attendance.

At the onset, it was not clear why five days of intense review was needed. However, reviewing the current state with a visual process map demonstrated the urgent need to improve the process for all stakeholders, but more importantly, for students. On Day 5, the team emerged with clarity of mind that the process needed to change and through consensus agreed on two phases of implementation: immediate action and future state.

Immediate Action

By spring, 2024, a total of 13 items will be implemented including: the adoption of a new course scheduling process map; developing a course scheduling manual with a chair checklist; a two-semester minimum planning schedule; defining the overall timeline for the scheduling process; early approval of full-time temporary faculty as well as needed templates, forms, and surveys to measure stakeholder [student and chairs] satisfaction.

The goal is to ensure the correct number of sections and courses are offered each semester, supporting students’ academic progress by improving existing practices to maximize undergraduate course schedule enrollment, not to mention graduation, retention and persistence rates.

Future State

The team determined a mid-term action would be needed for the future state of course scheduling and require the establishment of a cross-functional implementation team to address student advising, registration processes, and related software. It will require additional planning of resources, training, and defining of specific timelines to transform the data integration effort across campus.

In the coming months, the University will continue to formalize the Operational Excellence (OpEx) structure, membership, and charter to oversee the continuous improvement effort across the university, with a target date of July 1. Cortez, who holds an MBA, master of science in organizational leadership and is Lean Six Sigma certified, will be the University’s lead facilitator of Lean Higher Education/trainer of continuous improvement efforts and OpEx. Under OpEx, the Future State – Maximizing Course Enrollment RIE will be implemented. The aim is to offer strategic support, project management guidance, new process design and evaluation; facilitation; advisory support, and training on Lean Higher Ed and other best practices.

Not all recommendations from the Financial Sustainability Task Force will undergo a five-day RIE, only those determined to have an immediate impact on student engagement and satisfaction. The next RIE – Retention/Early Alert – is scheduled June 12 to June 16. Some recommendations will be reviewed for process improvement applying structured problem-solving, new process design and Just Do It (JDI) and other process/change management tools.

Top photo: The cross-functional RIE team included dedicated members from faculty and administration, representing those closest to the course scheduling process. The team was composed of, in the first row, Jonathan Walker, Ray Lewis, Matthew Ortoleva, Sam O’Connell, and Sarah Strout. In the second row, Julie Carmel, Jennifer Hood-DeGrenier, Julie Chaffee, and Meghna Dilip.

Related story Board Receives Fiscal Sustainability Task Force Report

Leave a Comment

See for yourself what #woolife is all about.

The best way to learn about Worcester State University is to tour our beautiful campus. Be sure to let your student tour guide know your interests so they can personalize your tour.

See the tour schedule