Increasing Engagement and Reducing Scheduling Timelines with CourseLeaf
"Because we were already live with CLSS, we were able to manage the unprecedented number of schedule changes forced by COVID."
Juan Gilberto Garcia, Jr., Associate VP of Student Success
A member of the Texas A&M University System, Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) provides over 8,500 students with a learning environment anchored by the highest quality programs built on a solid academic foundation in the arts and sciences. To fulfill its mission of preparing students for leadership roles in an increasingly complex, culturally diverse state, national, and global society, the University offers a range of baccalaureate and masters programs and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in International Business. An international university, TAMIU serves as the cultural and intellectual hub of a vibrant multilingual and multicultural community.
Before implementing CourseLeaf Catalog (CAT) in 2017, TAMIU staff faced a variety of challenges and frustrations. Chief among these was that changes to the school’s academic catalog had to be made—manually—in three different places: the online version of the catalog; the PDF version; and in the student information system (Ellucian Banner). Changes might be required very late in the process, resulting in late publication of the catalog, and mismatched pre-requisites and co-requisites were not uncommon. Once TAMIU adopted CAT, however, faculty were able to make automated changes to the catalog quickly across all platforms at once. CAT didn’t just provide greater convenience and peace of mind, though. The publication timeline decreased from 11 months to nine months, catalog website visits increased by 61%, and the average time spent by a visitor at the online catalog page rose nearly 18%. Overall enrollment increased by more than 14%.
"Our students benefited the most from our adoption of CLSS." - Juan Gilberto Garcia, Jr., Associate VP of Student Success
Inspired by the success of CAT, TAMIU adopted CourseLeaf Curriculum (CIM) the following year, then CourseLeaf Section Scheduler (CLSS). Says Juan Gilberto Garcia Jr., TAMIU’s Associate VP of Student Success: “We were sending Excel files around campus.” The scheduling of classes and allocation of campus resources was centralized at the Office of the Registrar, but the data entry was done manually. “We took advantage of everything that Excel can do,” Garcia recalls. “We created a very nice Excel sheet, with a lot of colors and drop-down menus and things like that… but then we still had to move the data to Banner and do our cross-checks and cross-referencing, which led to errors.”
Moreover, in a short time, enrollment at TAMIU had grown significantly, as had the size of the faculty, necessitating more class sections. “It became very hard for one person to do the scheduling,” says Garcia. “We wanted to remove ourselves from the data entry. And we wanted to reduce our time to create the class schedule from six weeks to four weeks.” CLSS provided the solution TAMIU was looking for.
“Our students benefited the most from our adoption of CLSS,” Garcia states. “And their advisors. Reducing the schedule creation timeline by two weeks means those two weeks can be put to better use, with students and their advisors meeting during that period.” Student advisors at TAMIU had been struggling to provide meaningful consultations to all of their students. “We were neglecting the human side of advising,” recounts Garcia. “But now, two extra weeks to schedule our students across campus… that’s 10 extra working days, and that represents a lot of advising appointment opportunities.”
CLSS was helpful enough to the faculty, staff, and students of TAMIU when first implemented, reducing drastically both the amount of time spent on manual data entry and human error… but when COVID-19 arrived, CLSS proved to be indispensable. “We had hoped to re-open our campus for the fall,” says Garcia, “but we couldn’t, and we had to make changes to the class schedules. With people working from home, having CLSS helped us tremendously as the ones who were making scheduling decisions were able to make changes right away, in real time, without waiting for a middle person to do it.”
“A lot of faculty members decided or asked to teach from home. A lot of classes changed from face-to-face to online. Because we were already live with CLSS, we were able to manage the unprecedented number of schedule changes forced by COVID,” Garcia recalls. “CLSS allows us to prioritize the needs of our students, which is key, because that improves both student retention and rate of graduation.” Moreover, TAMIU is learning things now about student preferences that the school is likely to find useful for both online and onsite students.
“Currently,” Garcia notes, “we only have two rooms on campus that can hold more than 100 students. We’ve monitored online enrollment in large classes to make sure that, as we more fully transition to in-person learning, we won’t have five different sections of popular classes, with more than 100 students, being offered at the same time. CLSS lets us do that easily.”