Over the last two years I have significantly redesigned nearly every aspect of the Humanities and Social Sciences class schedule at Kankakee Community College, including substantially expanding the number of hybrid courses we offer. For more more on this particular aspect of our redesign efforts, see KCC Hybrid Course Initiative.
Like many community colleges, KCC has experienced steady declines in both student credit hours and head count in recent years. In fact, as of Fall 2017, the college was down approximately 40% in overall enrollment from its high seven years earlier. While certainly many factors have contributed to this decline, it was apparent when I assumed leadership of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division that our existing schedule of class offerings needed to be seriously rethought. Indeed, like many schools that use a “roll-over” approach to schedule development, minor adjustments had been made from semester to semester based on enrollment and faculty preferences. But no serious attempt had been made to systematically revise the schedule in over ten years. Further, the template and scheduling rules employed by divisions college-wide had not been revisited in more than two decades.
The result were semester schedules that not only lacked a coherent rationale, but were riddled with conflicts and inconsistencies that made it difficult for students to find classes that met their needs. Indeed, feedback on the Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) routinely indicated that “Classes are scheduled at times that are convenient for me” to be one of our top challenges. Further, faculty in several disciplines were in serious danger of not making load due to insufficient enrollments–with the college considering options including Reductions in Force.
We had several goals in revising the master schedule, the primary being to provide students with better access to the classes that make up our General Education Core Curriculum. Indeed, in keeping with our work developing our guided pathway program (Fast Path), there is consensus among HSS faculty about the courses they believe to be most critical to the intellectual, ethical, and cultural development of our students. Thus, rather than 17 different courses that could potentially satisfy our Humanities General Education requirement, we prioritize three: Art Appreciation, Introduction to Philosophy, and Introduction to Humanities. Similarly, rather than 12 different options for satisfying our Social Sciences requirement, we have decided to focus on three: Sociology, Introduction to Psychology, and American Government.
Thus, in rebuilding the master schedule, our first priority has been to ensure that we provide students with access to the courses we consider to be primary–and to better manage enrollment in these courses.
A related goal has been to more judiciously schedule our elective offerings (courses not designated part of our “core”) at times and in modalities that complement our primary offerings while not undermining the viability of these “electives” as a whole. In some cases this has meant developing new rotations for certain courses; in some cases this has meant significantly scaling back our offerings in particular areas, as well as being more conscientious in developing new courses.
A third goal has been to critically examine how we utilize the entire scheduling template, and specifically, to more carefully distribute the courses we offer in “prime time” and across the schedule. This includes “blocking” our offerings in the evenings and at our regional centers. For example, we have expanded our use of 8-week offerings to provide students with what we call “Perfect Pairings”–two course sequences taught by the same teacher in the same rooms and times. These accelerated “pairings” have become increasingly popular, with students remarking that they appreciate being able to “knock out” some of their required courses more quickly with the benefit of a consistent schedule.
These efforts have resulted in a leaner, more functional schedule. In a single year we have drastically improved our fill-rates across all modalities, and faculty and students alike find the new schedule easier to understand and navigate.
Fill-Rates: Fall 2017 and Fall 2018
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Percentage of Seats Offered by Modality: Fall 2017 and Fall 2018
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Indeed, a recent analysis provided by Ad Astra independently confirms that in the course of a single year, we managed to shift the number of “underutilized” courses college-wide down by 9%, and to move the number of “overloaded” courses from 2% to 15%. While we have not fully achieved our target fill rates, the data looks promising, and we have established some clearer benchmarks for future decision-making.