University of Washington
How Academic Planning Optimization at the University of Washington averted investment in an unnecessary new building.
The construction of a new building at the University of Washington (UW) campus had been approved, but improvement in utilization rates of existing classrooms and other spaces made this substantial investment unnecessary.
Established in Seattle in 1861, the University of Washington (UW) is one of the oldest and most renowned public universities on the West Coast of the United States. In total, it houses about 46,000 students in more than 20 million square feet of available space, distributed between approximately 500 buildings. There are 26 libraries, an office building, art centers, museums, laboratories, and conference centers within the campus.
In 2017, the University considered investing in a new building to respond to the growing demand for classrooms imposed by the increasing number of students. Before starting construction, however, the institution conducted academic planning to forecast classroom and schedule allocation.
To optimize resource allocation, UW had already proposed a new time management policy that required schools to balance their use of infrastructure by introducing additional available hours. However, the effects of this policy had not been thoroughly studied, and its impact on schools was uncertain.
UW wanted to identify which departments would be benefited the most from the increase in the availability of hours following the construction of the new building, what the effect would be on their administration and planning areas, and best practices that would help increase the beneficial impact of these changes.
The available data had to be analyzed to understand how infrastructure was being used. UW turned to uPlanner for this task to collect essential information for subsequent analysis and generation of optimized scenarios using uPlanner’s Academic Demand Planning solution.
The UW Registrar’s Office worked directly with uPlanner, seeking an in-depth understanding of the institution’s infrastructure management policies. The Academic Demand Planning solution was used to analyze data from the past six months, helping to identify patterns and generating possible solutions to problems in allocation procedures.
As a result of these analyses, UW adjusted the criteria and procedures used for academic planning in order to:
Define available spaces based on possible types of use, rather than other use criteria, to improve booking descriptions and provide a better match for the current demand.
Assign room booking privileges by role, rather than specific room requests, therefore broadening the assignment options.
Provide incentives for departments to make bookings without specifying a time of day in order to increase flexibility and find a better fit at times of lower demand.
As an initial step, uPlanner performed a thorough diagnosis of UW’s academic planning practices – a requirement for the successful implementation of Academic Demand Planning.
The implementation took three months, after which Academic Demand Planning allowed UW to identify the schools with the highest number of academic planning issues and bottlenecks related to available infrastructure. This provided insight into other crucial aspects that would help redesign criteria and procedures for timetable management.
Analyzing data objectively helped identify opportunities for improvement in the use of existing infrastructure. These were presented to the University’s Board of Directors, who considered it unnecessary to proceed with the construction.
Currently, the University of Washington has an efficient academic planning policy, which responds to the needs of its schools and avoids incurring in infrastructure investments that prove to be unnecessary for the time being.