Operational Excellence Plans to Computerize Course Evaluations

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Students may no longer fill out pencil-and-paper evaluations to express their opinions on courses by the spring of 2013, as the Operational Excellence initiative moves forward with plans to computerize the process, along with several other cost-cutting proposals.

The coordinating committee of the Operational Excellence initiative - a campus cost-cutting project aimed at saving $75 million annually - approved plans Thursday to implement the online Sakai Evaluation system, which will be reviewed for final approval by the executive committee April 7. If the executive committee approves this plan, UC Berkeley is expected to save about $160,000 annually.

Though the coordinating committee approved the plans - put forth by the student services team - without requiring any changes, it did suggest making a mobile application for evaluations available.

The online system will allow students to see evaluation results, including student comments on the online schedule of classes to help decide which courses to take, according to Anne De Luca, student services initiative manager and university registrar.

By March 31, all seven teams of the Operational Excellence initiative must submit plans to reduce spending in their respective areas to the initiative's program office. The plans are then reviewed and passed through the coordinating and executive committees before implementation begins.

While the proposal to digitize course evaluations moves to the executive committee for review, a proposal for a new campus budget-tracking software, as well as a modified plan to cut energy consumption on campus, were given the go-ahead by the executive committee Friday.

Meanwhile, the coordinating committee must still decide on a plan to implement shared services units and will make a decision March 24. This proposal would consolidate information technology, finance and human resources into eight centers in 2012 to save the campus between $20 million and $35 million.

The finance team's Cal Budget and Planning project that was approved Friday calls for over $6.1 million in funding from Operational Excellence to implement the Hyperion Planning System, purchased by the campus in May 2010, to track and plan the campus budget.

About $1.6 million of the funding will be used to hire outside consultants to help implement the software, but there are no definite numbers on how much money the project will save, according to finance management initiative manager Jon Bain-Chekal.

"Although we anticipate savings, success for this project will not be measured only by cost savings," Bain-Chekal said in an e-mail. "We define success for this project as achieving operational efficiencies and associated savings, as well as improved support of high value activities."

The executive committee also approved the energy management team's plans to cut costs by providing monetary incentives for campus units to decrease electricity use. However, the team's proposal to create an Energy Office to orchestrate energy-saving initiatives across the campus was approved with the stipulation that it be implemented in phases, according to Operational Excellence communications manager Bill Reichle.

"The investment was high enough that the executive committee wanted to have the team prove the concept by selecting a section of campus, demonstrating that they indeed can achieve efficiencies and savings, and then going back for additional resources to roll it out across campus," he said in an e-mail.

Initiative manager and campus director of sustainability Lisa McNeilly said in an e-mail she will know more specific numbers and details of the plan after further meetings on Wednesday.


Alisha Azevedo covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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