Class Scheduling Software Capstone Project

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¶ … Scheduling Software for a University's Information Technology Division

Many institutions of higher learning have benefited from innovations in information and communications technologies in recent years, and a growing number have incorporated class scheduling software into their information technology solutions. In spite of this growth in class scheduling software use, thousands of colleges and universities stand to benefit from the addition of class scheduling software, but there remains a paucity of relevant research concerning how these products should be selected and who should be consulted to identify performance attributes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify the most appropriate class scheduling software for a university's information technology division based on user-established parameters concerning performance and attributes. To help achieve this purpose, the study was guided by several research questions: (a) What factors need to be taken into account during the class scheduling software selection process?, (b) How can these factors be identified most efficiently?, and (c) Is an off-the-shelf class scheduling software solution always superior? A review of the literature, the results of a canvass of IT department staff members and a weighted analysis of the potential software candidates are used to develop the study's recommendation for purchase as well as key findings and conclusions.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Statement of the Problem

Purpose of Study

Research Questions

Importance of Study

Scope of Study

Rationale of Study

Overview of Study

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Chapter Introduction

Current Trends in Class Scheduling Software

Constraints to Deploying a Class Scheduling Software

TOPIC: Capstone Project on Class Scheduling Software Assignment

Developing a Consensus of Needs, Wants and Requirements

Chapter 3: Methodology

Description of Study Approach

Data-Gathering Method and Database of Study

Chapter 4: Findings

Chapter 5: Summary and Conclusion

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Table of Contents

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F

Table 1. IT Department Business Division Class Scheduling Software

Wants/Needs/Requirements List

Table 2. Listing of Potential Class Scheduling Software Products

List of Figures

Figure 1. Total weighted scores for Class Scheduling Software Vendors

Identifying the Most Appropriate Class Scheduling Software for a University's Information Technology Division

Chapter 1:

Introduction

Although every educational institution is unique, colleges and universities around the world are faced with many of the same types of problems when it comes to classroom scheduling. Most of the traditional approaches to scheduling in these institutions are labor intensive and are fraught with opportunities for miscommunication and mix-ups that can adversely affect a college or university's ability to deliver high-quality educational services and provide its faculty with the ability to use the limited resources that are available most effectively. Faculty members must compete for a finite amount of classroom space during optimum periods, a conflict that is exacerbated when the class scheduling process is manual or otherwise characterized by inefficiencies. The same kind of so-called "turf battles" that typify a perceived intrusion on resources can result when proposals are introduced to automate the class scheduling process, and some educators may be reluctant to embrace these new technologies even in the 21st century. In this environment, identifying the most appropriate class scheduling software application for an educational institution of almost any type represents a timely and important enterprise, and these issues are discussed further below.

Statement of the Problem

While there remains a lack of recent studies concerning the use of class scheduling software, the growing body of research to date suggests that schools at all levels have benefited from these applications in a number of ways. For instance, according to O'Toole (2005), an aggressive initiative to revitalize a school district in Ohio relied on ACE's ADM-2000 Student Information System in general and its popular Master Schedule Builder/Student-Scheduling software in particular. The effort involved reorganizing the school district in order to offer smaller classes by expanding the district's two high schools into ten, changing from a semester to a trimester system, and converting students' GPAs from the semester to trimester system (O'Toole, 2005). The ADM2000 even includes a highly desirable mobile tool for ACE Software and provides administrators with real-time access to critical student data through any Palm OS-based PDA device (Administrative & management tools, 2005). According to the editors of THE Journal (2005), "The [ADM2000] software provides a flexible, secure way for administrators to keep track of important information such as class schedules, emergency contact information, grades, attendance, and students' photos in one convenient place" (Administrative & management tools, 2005, p. 39). The costs of the ADM2000 are affordable for many schools and begin at just $495 per building; however, an additional $210 per building annual maintenance fee is also required for its use (Administrative & management tools, 2005).

Furthermore, by taking advantage of the legacy systems and digital information that was already in place and incorporating custom-designed program elements into the application, the Ohio school district was able to achieve this reorganization in an efficient fashion to the satisfaction of all affected stakeholders. The main point made by O'Toole, though, was that there remains a dearth of timely and relevant studies concerning the selection and use of class scheduling software applications that can be used as a best practices guide. In this regard, O'Toole notes that, "What made this even harder and more significant, was the fact that there was no precedent in this area -- there were no school districts that we could call for advice based on their experience" (2005, p. 50). This lack of a set of best practices that can be used by educators to identify the most appropriate class scheduling software applications extends into upper educational echelons as well, a lack that directly relates to the purpose of this study which is discussed further below.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study was to identify the most appropriate class scheduling software for a university's information technology division based on user-established parameters concerning performance and attributes. To help achieve this purpose, the study was guided bye the research questions set forth below.

Research Questions

This study was guided by the following research questions:

1. What factors need to be taken into account during the class scheduling software selection process?

2. How can these factors be identified most efficiently?

3. Is an off-the-shelf class scheduling software solution always superior?

Importance of Study

Even during the best of times, universities must struggle to use whatever resources are available to them to their best advantage, and the lingering economic downturn has simply exacerbated the situation for many educational institutions across the country in recent years. Class scheduling software represents a potentially valuable tool to help schools of all types improve their efficiency in delivering educational services by ensuring that classrooms are available when and where they are needed, and that administrators can identify opportunities for improvement. As one class scheduling vendor emphasizes, "College and university campuses frequently struggle with the task of getting academic classes and the wide variety of non-academic meetings and events that they host into the appropriate rooms. Ensuring the availability of the necessary services and resources can also be difficult" (EMS Campus, 2010, para. 2). The administrators at Missouri Southern State College and McKendree College in Illinois found that their investments in class scheduling software paid major dividends. According to Branch (2002), "For less than $6,000, both schools were able to computerize their scheduling duties and improve their efficiency in planning room and building assignments for classes and events. Both schools, and close to about 1,000 others, have turned to academic scheduling software programs to better use the classroom space they already have" (p. 28).

Moreover, the efficient use of class scheduling software can also have some unexpected benefits. According to Paschall, Kypri and Saltz (2006), "Many universities in the United States and some other western countries schedule fewer classes on Fridays compared with other weekdays, which may contribute to student partying, alcohol misuse, and alcohol-related problems on prior weeknights as well as the overall incidence of these problems" (p. 764). By using available classroom resources to their maximum advantage, peak demand can be smoothed out and more time can be allotted for classes where required (Paschall et al., 2006). Taken together, it is clear that thousands of colleges and universities across the country stand to benefit from the use of class scheduling software, particularly when the software package is selected based on user-established parameters.

Scope of Study

Although this study explored the use of class scheduling software in general, there was a specific focus on colleges and universities in the United States.

Rationale of Study

There are approximately 2,700 colleges and universities in the United States that are large enough, generally more than 1,500 students, to benefit from using academic scheduling software (Branch, 2002). The use of class scheduling software, though, is certainly not limited to the United States. In fact, Harris (2007) reports that, "CELCAT makes course scheduling software for universities and colleges which is used by hundreds of institutions in more than 30 countries" (p. 18). The United States is also among these 30 countries using CELCAT, but the company also… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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