Direct Connection to Policy Area 3 of The Illinois Commitment
Northern Illinois University
What issue or need is addressed by the effective practice?
Just-in-Time Seating has two primary goals. The first is to provide new freshmen and transfer students with a full schedule of core-competency and general-education courses before they return home from their NIU orientation visits. By ensuring that new students get a full complement of courses in their very first semester, the university gives reality and meaning to “Truth in Tuition.” The second goal of the initiative is to reduce the cost of instruction in core-competency and general- education courses by ensuring that an appropriate number of course sections are scheduled and that the seats in the course sections are filled.
Description of the effective practice:
Just-in-Time Seating was designed to provide a full schedule of classes for new freshman and transfer students who enter Northern Illinois University without an associate’s degree. The program was first launched by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in fall 1997 and was initially restricted to core competency courses. Beginning in fall 1999, Just-in-Time Seating was expanded to include ten general education courses that are among those that typically enroll the most students. In 2001 the program was again expanded to include seven more general education courses with high enrollments.
Just-in-Time Seating relies on coordinated communications among 20 or more individuals and the constant monitoring of orientation flow and course enrollments by two individuals. Before each orientation day, figures on estimated attendance are obtained. Each day advisers provide early feedback on actual attendance. New course sections are opened and/or capacities of existing sections are increased to accommodate about 70 percent of the students. These actions are taken just five to ten minutes before students begin to register, hence the name, Just-in-Time Seating. More importantly, students are told that these seats are provided specifically for them, communicating the important messages that “students are important at NIU” and “you can get a full schedule of courses if you register today.”
How does this practice achieve sustainability?
By reducing the number of empty seats in NIU’s highest demand courses, fewer staff members have to be hired than would otherwise be the case. Hiring an appropriate number of instructional staff to teach fully subscribed course sections produces economies that reduce the total cost of salaries and benefits, which in turn helps to control the cost of tuition.
What are the results/measurable outcomes?
The results of Just-in-Time Seating can be measured by the number of sections offered, the numbers of students enrolled and empty seats, and cost savings. In this regard, cost savings are computed by comparing the actual number of empty seats to those recorded in the semesters immediately preceding those in which Just-in-Time Seating was implemented. The difference in these figures can be easily converted to “sections saved,” which in turn can be converted directly into “fewer instructional positions” and “fewer salary dollars.” The most recent data available (Fall 2004) are summarized below:
Number of Courses
Number of Sections
Number of Students
*2004-2005 Academic Year
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