Students in Class by Day and Time

By Damien Allen, Data Warehouse Architect & Institutional Reporting Manager
and Eric Lovik, Director Institutional Research, Reporting, and Assessment
Radford University

This data visualization was generated at the request of Parking Services at Radford University. Radford has designated areas on campus for employee and student parking, but similar to most universities there are space limitations. In addition to the campus parking lots, RU provides overflow and remote parking areas away from the center of campus life. Officials in Parking Services desired to know more precisely how many students are present on campus throughout the day during a given semester. To that end, the Office of Institutional Research, Reporting, and Assessment was contacted to calculate the number of students and times of day that represent the expected on-campus student headcount.

Each series of data shows the total number of students registered in a class scheduled for main campus for each day. This particular chart uses a five minute resolution to display intra-hour changes. Each class section was extended by 20% in order to account for the passing period between classes and to reduce the amount of noise in the data. For example, a student enrolled in a class scheduled from 3:00-4:00pm would appear in each time slot during that period. This adjustment increases our standard 50 and 75 minute class schedules to 60 and 90 minutes, respectively. Data can be further disaggregated by student type, program, or location such as specific buildings or rooms.

To most effectively illustrate the daily and hourly student enrollment, a line graph was used. The vertical axis shows the unique number of students expected to be on campus attending face-to-face courses, and the horizontal axis reflects the time of day. Each day of the week has a different color. At a glance one can see that there is a distinct start time (9:00am) when class attendance is noticeably high, which continues until about 4:00 pm to 5:00pm. The 9:00am to 5:00pm hours are shaded because this block of time represents the greatest on-campus activity period. Peak enrollment occurs Tuesday and Thursday at 11:00am followed by a sharp drop between 11:30am and 1:00pm for lunch. The displayed data end at 8:00pm but instruction continues on campus until 11:00pm for a set of astronomy observation labs.


                                           Fall 2014 Students in Class by Day and Time




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Total Comments: 9
Jeff posted on 6/18/2015 1:21 PM
This is an excellent information display. It highlights peak patterns in a way that easily distinguishes time and day. Parking is a common issue across most colleges and campuses, and there may be seasonality to parking patterns. Some overcrowding may be planned for at the start of the term with the expectation that parking will balance out later in the term.
Sam posted on 6/18/2015 1:33 PM
I think this visual is simple, yet effective. The author might extend it by breaking out students by building quad or other geographic feature to see where there might be disproportionate pressure on a particular parking lot. I assume students will always attempt to park as close as possible to their first class. If this sort of information was shared with students, it might influence which courses they sign up for if they know they will have an easier time parking. In turn, such information might influence when faculty choose to schedule their courses.
Tim posted on 6/18/2015 1:41 PM
This is excellent, clearly and intuitive. We've generated something similar at our institution, although I like this format much better. One thought however--at our institution we were instructed to not make this information publicly available. There was some concern that disclosing the times the greatest number of people are on campus might be inviting some security problems.
Terry posted on 6/18/2015 2:11 PM
Great graphic, The purpose and the presentation of the data make clear what is happening with enrollment. The lines for the various days don't make it difficult to read what is happening on any one day.
Betsy posted on 6/18/2015 2:52 PM
This is a very clear and easy to read chart, and probably works well for planning parking until perhaps the end of the term when more student may be expected to come to work in the library or meet with faculty during office hours.
Dina posted on 6/18/2015 4:07 PM
This is a great display. It is easy to read chart and I like the format.
Christy posted on 6/18/2015 10:23 PM
This is great! This would have been a powerful way to communicate what's happening - wish I'd thought of this for a similar analysis I did in the late 90's...
Kevin posted on 6/19/2015 12:18 PM
I like the simplicity of the figure. I appreciate the explanation, too.

I understand the reasoning behind extending the "end of class" by 20% however I'd prefer to explore simply eliminating the gaps between contiguous classes and allowing users to make their own judgments about how long students remain on campus after each class. In any case, I'm not sure about assuming that students spend more time transitioning or lingering after longer classes so adding a static amount of time may be a slightly better approach that addresses the same issues and maintains the simplicity of the original approach.

(I also imagine that one of your filtering options or another available set of figures breaks out on-campus and off-campus residents since that seems like a critical distinction when discussing parking availability.)
Rachel posted on 6/19/2015 12:21 PM
I like how the information is presented so that time of day and day of week are condensed into one graph. It would be interesting to see individual graphs by college to identify any differing trends in course enrollment. For example, at our institution the College of Nursing students have much different behaviors compared to our College of Science students. I wonder if this would be reflected in time and day of the week they attend their courses.