Managing Academic Workload Without Excel


A well defined Academic Workload Allocation Model (AWAM) seems for most universities to be the driving force behind fostering a healthy, collegial work environment. However for the vast majority of academic organisations the process of refining their AWAM is complex, time consuming and costly.

Traditionally, cumbersome Excel spreadsheets have been the go-to tool for organisations when it comes to managing their academics’ workload allocations. For many tasks an Excel spreadsheet remains ideal, however as a workload allocation datasets grow and evolve over time spreadsheets can become problematic. With the need for formulas to be continually modified or created anew to meet the demands of expanding datasets. Inconsistencies can arise leading to reporting mistakes and poorly informed decision making.

So how can you produce and manage a clear AWAM without Excel that allows individual workload allocations to align with departmental goals and overarching faculty and graduate school goals?

WAMS — Migrate to a flexible web application

Custom-built database applications are often not general enough to be able to deal with different workload models at the same time. Not only do models vary across academic sections and time, processes do too. WAMS is designed to be usable in faculties and institutions where multiple workload models and processes are deployed in the various departments and schools.

The software can manage a wide range of workload model types; more than 20 individual models have been tested so far. It supports a high degree of complexity in rules and supports the evolution of those over time. WAMS can handle multiple campuses as well as teaching delivery modes (such as on-line vs on-campus). It also supports an arbitrary number of Envelopes to group workload allocations – common envelopes include Teaching, Research, and Service but may also include PhD Supervision etc.

Designed and implemented by Stijn Dekeyser & Richard Watson, who were former Heads of Department and are passionate Computer Science lecturers at the University of Southern Queensland. The former ensures that the application is thoroughly in tune with the needs of academic managers, while the latter means that the system’s foundations are based on solid theory and informed by best practice.

Better Data Management & Transparent Reporting.

Keeping historical data on allocations is not only important for Academic units and staff but serves as vital information for Human Resource Service & Financial departments. WAMS keeps track of allocations over time. For unit allocations there is a comprehensive versioning mechanism that doubles as a drafts repository. Institutions that wish to do so, may use this feature to allow allocations to be created in a bottom-up fashion, rather than a top-down manner.

Being a web-based, database driven application. WAMS removes the annoyances of unreadable cell formulas and faulty row copying in favour of guaranteed data integrity. Allocations can be viewed and updated by many people simultaneously, and reporting is consistent. Despite WAMS being a data editing and viewing tool at it’s core the software has a number of reporting capabilities.

WAMS reporting capabilities are grouped into three categories. First, a small number of dynamic and generic reports are built-in to support much of the day-to-day reporting requirements. These reports allow managers to check on casualisation levels, project staffing requirements, and enhance their budget management. Secondly, all reports (and also the data entry screens) can be exported in a variety of formats (including Microsoft Excel if you really do still love your spreadsheets). Finally, XML data feeds are accessible for use in reporting software such as SSRS. Reporting can be done at any level in the organisation’s hierarchy – an arbitrary Section depth is supported.


Clear Insights, Smarter Decisions.

So, before you jump straight into Excel to manage your academic workload allocation process. Here’s some final food for thought. Various studies over the past few years report that — 

88 percent of all spreadsheets have “significant” errors in them.

With the majority of errors reported caused by human error—meaning they could have been completely avoidable mistakes. 

Ready to try a flexible AWAM solution with the ability to evolve with the changing contexts of departments, workgroups and evaluations?

Get in touch with Academ today to discover how you can trial WAMS for a limited time, free of charge.