Grid improves class scheduling

Students had fewer courses to choose from, faculty struggled to find available rooms in which to teach and Butler University faced a scheduling crisis.

It all led to the formation of a new class grid, active for the first time last semester. The grid, a school-wide template of course meeting times, introduced new slots for Monday-Wednesday classes, a reduction of gaps between courses and an expectation that colleges adhere to the official times more than they did under the old grid.

Registrar Sondrea Ozolins said the goal is to spread offerings evenly across the days of the week and the hours of the day.

“The grid is like a huge puzzle,” she said. “We did make things a little tighter. We also came up with more meeting slots that would satisfy both the students and the faculty.”

Two options introduced by the new grid are meeting Monday and Wednesday from 1 to 2:15 p.m. or 2:25 to 3:40 p.m., replacing Monday-Wednesday-Friday slots that met from 2 to 2:50 p.m. and from 3 to 3:50 p.m.

“Good idea,” Griffin Richeson, a senior finance major, said. “It gets too drawn out with M-W-F.”

The changes followed a 12-month study conducted by the committee of associate deans that oversees scheduling. Joined by Ozolins and associate provosts Mary Ramsbottom and Laura Behling, a representative from each college at Butler serves on the group.  The affectionately-termed “A-Deans” approved the new grid in March 2010. It took effect in April 2010 after adoption by the Provost Advisory Council.

“We had a grid people didn’t like, so they routinely violated it,” Bill Templeton, associate dean of the College of Business Administration, said. “A lot of us were making up our own class times Monday and Wednesday. So we legitimized those, but we said, ‘OK, you need to comply with the rest of it.’”

Templeton said the committee had to break a logjam.

“Getting a classroom at 9:30, 11 or 1 on Tuesday or Thursday was practically impossible. He said part of what we were trying to do is create a grid that was more attractive at other times. Let’s use the whole day and the whole week to get students a reasonable schedule.”

Several periods begin sooner in the afternoon, and the new grid thus ends the schedule of day classes sooner, with the last adjourning at 5:05 p.m. as opposed to 5:30 p.m.

Some committee members are still taking a wait-and-see approach.

“It’s early in the process,” said Bruce Clayton, associate dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “I think the intent is certainly good. It opens up greater flexibility for all colleges.”

Ozolins said professors can still schedule off the grid with cause despite a more hard-line approach against the practice.

“In a perfect world, everyone stays on the grid,” she said. “The grid itself tries to be neutral. It’s just a tool, not a mandate.”

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