University Operating Status

Initiative supports on-time degree completion, less travel time for students

The new platform, which will be called CourseAtlas in New Brunswick, will balance student demand, instructor preferences, and available classroom space in creating course schedules.
Photo: Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University


A new course scheduling system at Rutgers University aims to make it easier for students in Camden, Newark and New Brunswick to sign up for the courses they need to complete their degrees on time, while cutting down on time spent traveling to class.

The new system, which will be called CourseAtlas in New Brunswick, will balance student demand, instructor preferences, and available classroom space in creating course schedules to help students fulfill requirements to graduate, starting with fall 2020 semester schedules.

“When courses are not available at ideal times for students or if there are conflicts with different courses they need to take, it […] can lead to additional semesters needed to complete their program,” said Paul Hammond, associate vice chancellor for technology and instruction.

The new scheduling platform grew out of the University Strategic Plan, which identified the need to transform the student experience and modernize the university’s course scheduling system. Rutgers 2030, the university’s physical master plan, as well as the Rutgers University–New Brunswick strategic plan, highlighted the need for the new system to improve the time it takes students to complete their degrees.

Hammond said that the new system is designed to increase students’ opportunities to take the classes they need when they need them. Other benefits include placing courses in rooms that best fit the class size and needs of the course, improving student choice, and optimizing scheduling options for students when registering for classes. Another expected advantage is reducing course-related student travel.

“When we began analyzing the numbers, nearly 40,000 students were taking about 260,000 trips to almost 6,000 course sections per week,” he said. “So, the goal was to reduce the number of trips and to more intentionally schedule our courses so that we could reduce the amount of travel students needed to make.”

Hammond says an anticipated decrease in students traveling in their own vehicles between campuses can also improve traffic flow.

In conjunction with the project, classrooms around campus have been updated with the same classroom instructional technology to reduce high demand for certain spaces and to create equitable environments when it comes to room selection.

Students will not interact directly with this system, because it is used to create the course schedule ahead of student registration. Rather, when they register for their fall 2020 courses, they will find more scheduling options optimized by location and other needs.

The system was tested universitywide over four semesters, and feedback was provided by the schools and departments after each test simulation to make sure the system best fits the scheduling needs of our students, faculty, departments, and programs. As the system rolls out for all users, there will be opportunities to submit feedback and suggestions on how to improve the scheduling experience.

“This move is a big win for departments like kinesiology and health since our growth and demand has been tremendous over the past few years,” said Joanne Hunt, vice chair of education and administration in the Department of Kinesiology and Health in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers–New Brunswick, one of the departments closely involved in schedule simulations. “If CourseAtlas can address the issues of student travel and greater access to buildings and rooms, I think it will positively impact the Rutgers community.”

“I consider a good schedule to be good for the student, good for the faculty member, and good for the department offering the course,” Hammond said. “That’s really what this project is striving to achieve.”

For more information, please visit the CourseAtlas website.