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ERIC Number: EJ830652
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 14
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1195-4353
Qualitative Timetabling: An Organizational and Qualitative Approach to Improving University Course Scheduling
Hill, Duncan L.
College Quarterly, v11 n3 Sum 2008
Focusing on the current timetabling process at the University of Toronto Mississauga, I apply David Wesson's theoretical framework in order to understand how increasing enrolment interacts with a decentralized timetabling process to limit the flexibility of course schedules, and the resultant impact on educational quality. I then apply Robert Birnbaum's leadership ideas to improve UTM's timetabling process: I propose the provision of strong centralized leadership in the timetabling process instead of the current central service support of a decentralized process. University course scheduling, or timetabling, is a complex problem involving logistics, politics, funding, and pedagogy. A definition of timetabling typical in the existing literature is "the determination of which courses are taught at what days and times, in which rooms, and taught by whom (Thompson, 2005, p. 198)." To this definition other scholars have added the dimension of who needs to enrol in the courses (i.e., the determination of how each course fulfills requirements for any given program of study). Similarly, the timetabling problem has a common definition among scholars: how to create a feasible timetable given a set of constraints or rules (i.e., any factor that limits when or where any course can be scheduled). At the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), where I have been responsible for timetabling for the past three years, timetabling is a highly decentralized process wherein all course sections, scheduling and instructor allocations are completed at the departmental level; central coordination only occurs at the end of the process when rooms are allocated. While this arrangement has worked in the past, it has recently begun to create problems due to a significant enrolment increase over the past 8 years without a comparable increase in classroom space. Every year more and more courses must be rescheduled on an individual basis because of limited room availability, and it has become increasingly difficult to reschedule courses without disrupting the timetable as a whole. Thus, the quality of the timetable decreases each year as the course-by-course scheduling modifications degrade the overall integrity of the timetable. The goal of this paper has two parts: to discern the specific nature and cause of the timetabling problems currently facing UTM and their impact on the quality of undergraduate education; and to propose improvements that incorporate adjustments to process, organizational structure, and leadership. I believe that this paper will make a unique contribution to the literature as it will help to fill the gap in non-mathematical and -computational approaches to addressing the university course timetabling problem. In the first section I will begin by reviewing the existing literature about university timetabling and examine a theoretical framework proposed by David Wesson that will help assess UTM's timetabling problem, followed by a brief description of data collection methodology. In the second section I will look at the nature and impact of the timetabling problem at UTM by analysing UTM's timetabling and enrolment data and applying Wesson's theories. The third section will describe Robert Birnbaum's leadership ideas and how his framework can be applied to propose a solution for the timetabling problems described in section two. Finally, I will propose areas for further research that could add more to this area of study. (Contains 5 charts.)
Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. 1750 Finch Avenue East, Toronto, Ontario M2J 2X5, Canada. Tel: 416-491-5050; Fax: 905-479-4561; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Canada (Toronto)