Vol. 15 : No. 8
Distance Learning Center Saves $100,000 Annually with Web-based Scheduling Solution
Scott Steinacher - TimeTrade Systems, Inc.
A network of seven colleges, The City Colleges of Chicago's Center for Distance Learning (CDL) offers affordable, quality education in 70 courses to more than 3,000 students. Until recently, CDL administrators faced a vexing logistic problem.
To successfully complete their studies, CDL students must pass periodic proctored exams administered on personal computers at one of seven colleges. Manually scheduling exams for thousands of students was difficult enough, but simultaneously tracking proctors, rooms, and computers was making the situation untenable and very expensive.
Recognizing the Internet's power to wring efficiencies from business processes, Pam Lattimore, dean of CCC's Center for Distance Learning, and her staff began looking for Web-based scheduling solutions. Their reasoning was straightforward. If people can order books over the Web, they should be able to self-register for exams online.
"We knew there had to be a better way," recalls Lattimore.
Using search engines, Lattimore and CCC's coordinator for distance learning, Peg Rademaker, compiled a short list of companies offering Web-based scheduling solutions. After meeting with representatives from several companies and looking closely at their products, the school chose a solution from TimeTrade Systems, Inc. in Massachussetts. With more than 100 customers online in a variety of industries, TimeTrade's solution had a proven track record.
"CCC's requirements are complex, but not unique," says Peter Hanson, TimeTrade's vice president of sales. "The colleges have a limited number of resources that must be made available to many students in a discrete period of time. Our solution was designed with these situations in mind."
At the start of the project, TimeTrade defined available resources, including rooms, personal computers, and proctors. After initializing a resource database with this information, the company defined and associated exams with dependent resources. Next, exam dates, start times, and durations were loaded into the system.
Despite its back-end complexity, TimeTrade's user interface lets students book appointments for exams in only four steps (see figure 1). After logging onto the system through the Center for Distance Learning's Web site (www.ccc.edu/cdl), students select their course, exam, campus site at which they would like to take their exam, and desired exam date. TimeTrade then displays current availability in intuitive daily, weekly, and monthly views.
To register for exams, students simply click on an available date and time (see figure 2). Behind the scenes, TimeTrade tracks the number of students who have registered for each exam, then closes exams when as become fully-enrolled. In addition, the system sends automatic confirmations (see figure 3) and reminders to students via email, which has helped reduce the number of missed exam appointments.
TimeTrade's solution has many benefits. School administrators no longer have to field thousands of requests from students seeking to schedule their exams. Further, students can self-register for exams at any time of day or night, and in less time than would be possible by phone. And, because students receive confirmations and reminders via email, they are less likely to miss exams or arrive at the wrong date and time. TimeTrade's reporting module lets administrators monitor exam activities in real-time across all seven colleges.
To date, over 85% of CDL's students are opting to book their exam appointments online -- virtually eliminating phone traffic. As a result, CDL has been able to reduce payroll and other administrative expenses by approximately $100,000 annually, while providing better customer service to students. (Before the system, students occasionally heard busy signals or were put on hold).
"Scheduling multiple exams for over 3,000 students at multiple locations with a limited number of PCs available at any given time was a challenging task," says Lattimore. "TimeTrade has had a dramatic impact here," she concludes. "I don't know how we got by without it."For more information contact: Scott Steinacher at TimeTrade Systems, Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org