Looking into the mysteries of classroom scheduling

English majors in the English Building, math classes in Altgeld, Engineers on the Engineering Quad — if only it were that simple.

“Generally, yes, they make sense,” said Jonathan Yong, freshman in Engineering, about where his classes are held, but added that there are some exceptions. “I had a math class in the Psych Building, so that was weird.”

“A lot of them have been pretty off,” said Kenny Morgan, senior in LAS, about some of his religious studies classes, but added that most of the classes for his major have been in the right place.

While departmental classes are generally held in the buildings they call home, space and other constraints mean that sometimes classes end up elsewhere, said campus registrar Carol Malmgren.

The University’s office of the registrar decides what departments get what classrooms and where some classes will go in a process that begins nearly a year in advance of the semester being scheduled. Location is only one factor in a decision-making process that also takes into account time of day, technology, classroom equipment and faculty preferences, Malmgren said.

She said space constraints can complicate the process.

“With the Lincoln Hall being down, we have had to look in every nook and cranny to be sure that we’re using all of the space that we can, because that was one of our largest classroom facilities,” she said. “We are in a position that we really need to use the space efficiently across campus.”

While the office tries to make scheduling make sense, sometimes things have to shift around in order to open up seats.

“I know that we’ve got some folks from education teaching all the way up in the Transportation Building,” she said. “That’s not ideal, especially when the faculty member has to take a lot of hand outs or equipment or activities that are more appropriate for a space down in the College of Education.”

Demand for technology is also a factor in what classes are placed where.

“Right now we’ve got these projectors in a lot of our classrooms, in about one fourth of our classrooms,” Malmgren said. “And there’s a great demand for that and we can’t meet the need.”

She said that while it would be helpful to have more classrooms equipped with projectors, especially to meet the demand in smaller classrooms less likely to have one, budget realities interfere.

“There’s resource constraints, with the budget situation that the University is in,” she said.

The office maintains close relationships with all the departments to make sure faculty and classroom needs are being met, Malmgren said, calling the departments “the frontline source of information” on faculty needs.

The process begins with the office allocating classrooms out to the departments on campus. It is then up to the departments to schedule those departmentally allocated classrooms, Malmgren said.

About 400 classrooms are left after those allocations are made, and those are scheduled by the Office of the Registrar, she said. Additionally, lecture halls and spaces with more than 70 seats are scheduled by the administration to ensure that they are being used efficiently — Foellinger even has its own full-time manager.

The bottom line, Malmgren said, is to make sure there is enough space for students to be able to take the classes they need to.

“The whole point is we need to get students in the space so that they can fulfill their degree requirements,” she said.