Optimization of academic planning removed the need for the construction of a new building.
Improved efficiency in the use of existing classrooms and other spaces saved the considerable expense of investing in the construction of a new building.

Founded in 1861 in Seattle, the University of Washington (UW) is one of the oldest and most prestigious public universities on the East Coast of the United States. The institution’s 500 or so buildings serve a total of 46,000 students across over 20 million square feet of real estate and house 26 libraries, the UW Tower office block, art centers, museums, laboratories, conference centers, and much more.

In 2017, UW was assessing the possibility of constructing a new building in response to rising demand for classroom space from its growing student numbers. Before beginning construction, however, the decision was taken to conduct the academic planning for the new building in order to gain an idea of how its classrooms would be used and what timetabling could potentially look like.

The Challenge

In order to maximize efficiency of space usage and course assignment, UW had already proposed a new time management policy which required all schools to balance out their use of existing infrastructure with the help of newly available time slots. However, the effects of this policy had not been studied thoroughly, and there was uncertainty regarding the impact it would have on each school.

UW wanted to identify those departments that would be most affected by the increase in time slots following the construction of a new building, what impact there would be on administrative and planning areas, and any practice improvements that would increase the impact of these changes.

To achieve this, the university needed to understand how its infrastructure was really being used, analyzing all of the relevant data available. It was for this purpose that UW brought uPlanner on board, who began by providing consultation to determine how the new classrooms would be used. The uPlanning academic planning solution was then implemented, allowing the university to collect and analyze key data, and generate optimized proposals for classroom allocation and timetabling.

Work Carried Out

uPlanner worked directly with the UW registry office in order to gain a detailed understanding of the university’s infrastructure management policies. uPlanning was then used to analyze data from the previous six months, identifying patterns and problems with allocation procedures, along with potential solutions.

As a result of this analysis, a number of changes were agreed to academic planning criteria and procedures, including:

● Definition of available spaces according to possible use types (as opposed to other descriptive characteristics) in order to improve request descriptions and better meet current infrastructure demand.

● Prioritization of classroom assignment according to required function rather than requests for specific rooms, thus increasing allocation options.

● Incentivisation for departments to request facilities without specifying time slots, thus encouraging flexibility and increasing the likelihood of finding a good fit at less sought-after times.

uPlanner began by conducting a thorough assessment of UW’s academic planning practices. Only then was the decision made to implement uPlanning.

The Results

  • Within three months of implementation,

    uPlanning was enabling UW to identify those schools with the most serious problems in terms of course and space allocation, as well as infrastructural bottlenecks. The solution also revealed other crucial factors that would contribute to the redesign of criteria and procedures for timetable management.

  • Analysis of objective data facilitated the identification of opportunities to improve

    the use of existing infrastructure, and these were presented to the university’s executive committee who, in light of the evidence, decided that construction of the proposed new building was unnecessary.

  • Currently,

    the University of Washington operates an efficient course and space allocation policy that responds to the needs of the various schools, and which postponed the need for investment in infrastructure.