Making room for improvement at the Institute

Photo by Dani Sisson Student Publications

As a third year student at Tech who’s held many positions on student organization leadership boards, I’ve had the opportunity (or misfortune, depending on how you see it) to reserve a room or event space on campus. 

Despite Tech’s status as a top university in the nation, the system for making these reservations is beyond subpar. And frankly, with student populations on campus rising so much year over year, we should want better from our classroom reservation system. 

A convenient and easy-to-use system would alleviate much of the crowding that takes place at the library and the student center.

Let’s talk about why the system we have now sucks. To make a reservation for a classroom at Tech, you go to Already, this URL is unwieldy and not convenient. The login screen you are greeted with still has a warning regarding COVID-19 and social distancing with dates pertinent to summer … of 2021.

The login credentials you use on this service are the same as your regular Institute credentials — but there’s no Duo two-factor authentication here.

What’s the point of having two-factor authentication if there are still services that don’t utilize the immense security benefits it brings?

Once you log in, you’re shown a cluttered dashboard filled with deadlines and warnings that are years out of date. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as finding a classroom available at a certain time in a specific building or a particular area of campus is a time consuming process — literally — since it takes ages for pages to even load with the availability of a classroom or breakout space.

And what happens if you need a specific amenity within a classroom? Or want to see what a classroom might look like without having to trek all the way to Skiles or the Instructional Center? 

Tough luck. Some classrooms have updated pictures, others have pictures that look like they’re from two decades ago, and still others have no pictures at all. 

As for if you need a projector, some rooms that have one aren’t marked as such in the system. 

What does this mean for students? It means more competition for a smaller pool of classrooms. 

By making it easier to find and reserve rooms, Tech could improve the utilization of its existing spaces, making it more likely that students and staff will be able to find a suitable room when they need it.

Another problem with the current room reservation system is that it is not flexible enough to accommodate changing needs. 

Many times, events and meetings are scheduled far in advance, only to be rescheduled or canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. 

This often results in empty rooms (that could be used for events or other purposes even at the last-minute). The reservation system is unable to accommodate the needs of the event or meeting, leaving attendees frustrated and without a suitable space. 

The system should be updated to allow for more flexibility and responsiveness to changing needs, making it easier for users to find a suitable room when they need it.

The solution to these issues is to implement a more sophisticated room reservation system that incorporates real-time data about room utilization and availability. 

This system would provide users with up-to-date information about the availability of rooms on campus, making it easier to find and reserve a space that meets their needs. Increased integrations with other campus services would make event planning, promotion and execution much easier for all parties involved.

For example, integrating with Canvas for instructors could make meetings outside of lecture more feasible. Integrations with Engage or the campus calendar could make event planning and promotion much easier.

Tech could also consider implementing a virtual tour feature, allowing users to get a feel for the room before they reserve it. 

This would make it easier for users to determine if a particular room is the right fit for their event or meeting. 

The virtual tour feature should also be integrated with the reservation system, making it easier for users to find and reserve a room that meets their needs.

Another much more systematic way Tech can choose to do better with the reservation system is by working with departments and building managers to find underutilized rooms all over campus. 

Doing so would add more campus spaces available for student, faculty and organization use and reduce competition for the more popular locations around campus.

The current reservation system is just not cutting it. To improve it, Tech needs to rebuild it from the ground up to be much more flexible and adaptable. 

Tech must work with departments to promote underutilized spaces on campus to reduce competition and can even innovate by making reserving a room an enjoyable experience. 

By doing so, Tech could provide students and staff with the spaces they need to succeed and thrive on campus and prove it supports student well being on spaces on campus.