Like many schools, the University of Washington prides itself on a culture of innovation. But in one area—the scheduling of athletic events and facilities—the university was trying to meet the needs of smartphone–savvy staff and students with 20th-century technology.
"We had been scheduling ourselves the same way for 10 to 15 years, with Microsoft Access," said Darla Van Winkle, the event manager for the university's athletic department. "There was no calendar view, no flexibility, no online access, and data entry was difficult. It was archaic.
"Athletic scheduling at a school like the University of Washington poses special challenges. Over 650 student athletes participate on 21 teams. In addition, the school's intramural sports clubs rent use of the varsity facilities and fields. "The only way for coaches to find out where and when they could practice would be to call us," said Van Winkle. "We knew we needed to find a better way."
Then, last fall, the department took advantage of a free trial offer of Tandem, a web-based scheduling and calendar program for colleges and universities. "Tandem met all our needs, and we implemented it fully in January," Van Winkle said.
Tandem provides a sophisticated scheduling and calendar solution to colleges and universities. Behind the scenes, event managers at athletic, music, arts and other departments use it to schedule facilities and resources. Community groups can use it to rent facilities when those resources are not being used by the school.
Meanwhile, Tandem's calendar view allows faculty, students and community members to keep track of whatever games, performances or other public events they wish to follow. Athletes, band members and other authorized users can view private events, such as practices or rehearsals.
All users can view the events they follow on their Google or Outlook calendars or from their Facebook account, and they can choose to have schedule reminders and changes sent to them via email or text message.
At the University of Washington, Van Winkle uses Tandem to schedule the athletic facilities for all teams. "I sit down with each coach and we decide where and when each practice will be held," she said. "We enter it in Tandem, and every coach instantly sees the updated practice schedule on their computer or smartphone."
When an intramural club or community group wants to rent a university sports facility, they use Tandem to check availability and submit their rental request for Van Winkle to review and approve. Once that happens, the facility's availability is immediately updated on the master schedule for all users.
Learning to use Tandem and integrating it with the university's website was remarkably easy, Van Winkle said. "It's simple and userfriendly, so very little training was necessary," she explained. "And whenever we have a question, the vendor is very responsive."
Reaction to Tandem has been highly favorable throughout the university. "The coaches love it because they can keep track of their schedules right in their email," Van Winkle said, adding that other departments rely on Tandem as well. "Parking services uses it to know when they need to staff events, and security uses it to know when they can lock up a facility for the night."
For the athletic department, Van Winkle noted that the biggest benefits from Tandem have been time savings, convenience and improved communication within the university. "It's become a necessity for our department," she said. "Tandem is a tool that is ballooning into something that I wouldn't have envisioned."
Bellevue Christian Schools (BCS) is a school where parents expect the best. One of the premier private schools in the greater Seattle region, everyone looks to BCS as an educational leader, both inside and outside the classroom. With the abundance of activities and events taking place at BCS, they needed a perfect solution for school staff, and for the community. "What we had before Tandem, just wasn't working" says Terry Foster, Bellevue Christian Assistant to the Athletic and Activity Director. "Our facilities were in constant use, but we had no way of knowing if things were working well, and no efficient way to schedule them." Before Tandem, behind-the-scenes rescheduling time lead to frequent double bookings, conflicts and confusion. "We needed a tool to help us keep everything straight, and let our parents, teachers and students know immediately about changes. Tandem was the solution to our frustrations," according to Foster.
Athletic games were another area of frustration. Before Tandem For Schools, parents were constantly calling the school and athletic office for updates to games or practices. With the temperamental weather in the Seattle area, efficient rescheduling is a necessity, especially during baseball season.
"If you think about it, if we changed one game, then we'd have to communicate this to 15 - 20 players, as well as 40-50 parents. Each of them would call our office asking for the same information. That's more than 50 calls regarding just one game change. Sometimes we would cancel 2-3 games a day. Our office just wasn't equipped to communicate this information quickly enough.
"An additional benefit of using Tandem for Schools is we can quickly request buses and also reallocate them when something changes." With their events, calendar, schedules and transportation all working from the same program, BCS has taken communication and efficiency to a whole new level.
"We have found that our parents check their email 4-5 times a day... but only check their voice mail once or twice. Tandem's automatic email updates have helped our parents stay informed like never before." With Tandem for Schools, administrators are in position to make one change to their calendar, and have the calendar let everyone know immediately of the change; one click, multiple emails. Now, as an administrator, your only job is to keep the calendar current. Everything else takes care of itself.
"This is more than a calendar, this is a total solution. It has de-stressed our staff, made our jobs more effective, our time more efficient, and become extremely valuable to our school, our transportation staff and our community."
Want to see what the calendar looks like on Bellevue Christian's website... check it out at http://www.bellevuechristian.org and click on the calendar link off to the left or see their Tandem For Schools calendar here at http://calendar.bellevuechristian.org.