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The typical staffing model for education services organizations is very delivery intensive, where instructors make up the majority of the organization’s headcount. To keep instructors instructing rather than focusing on non-productive, non-billable tasks, it’s up to ES organizations to ensure that instructors are spending their time efficiently.

A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse of Instructor Utilization in ES

When tracking instructor utilization, take a look at what percentage of time is spent on billable vs. non-billable activity. Based on the results from TSIA’s recent compensation survey, it’s clear that many ES organizations under-utilize instructor resources. ES Compensation Survey data revealed that the average instructor utilization rate is 59%. This data is corroborated by the Education Services Benchmark Survey, which shows average utilization at 57%. If your instructors are not generating revenue, they’re essentially costing you money, so how is time being spent when instructors are not instructing?

Productive vs. Non-Productive Time

The Compensation Survey allowed us to get a top-level look at non-billable instructor time, which is divided into two categories: (1) non-billable, productive time and (2) non-billable, non-productive time.

productive instructor time  

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Non-Productive Instructor Time

If you look at the right side of the chart you can see the types of non-productive activities. Your staff needs to take vacation, you’ll have holidays, as well as the occasional sick day, which are types of activities that are to be expected. However, a controllable activity on this list, which consumes a greater percentage of time than holidays, is travel. In the age of virtual instruction, there is an opportunity for instructor travel time to be reduced, and possibly eliminated altogether, freeing-up time for more productive activities.

Productive Instructor Time

If you look at the non-billable, productive side of the chart, the item on this list that chews up the most time for instructors is set-up and preparation of the physical classroom and/or virtual environment. A way to optimize instructor time is to assign set-up and prep tasks to someone who is in a non-billable role, like a technical specialist. Another major drain on an instructor’s time is content development.

How Do You Improve the Billable Utilization of Your Instructors?

The chart below shows the median headcount for the primary roles in an education services organization. As can be seen, the next most heavily staffed role is content developer.

education services headcount  

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Median number headcount in each role within an ES organization.

Content developers play a large part in the ES organization. They have the skills required to produce content that is meaningful and purposeful to a learner, and this is a skill set that an instructor may or may not have. Therefore, using instructors as subject matter experts vs. content developers, is a TSIA education services best practice. This approach optimizes the time instructors spend instructing, thereby increasing billable time, and leaves the content development work to those who have that expertise.    

When in Doubt, Leave it to the Experts

Allow your staff to be experts, with specialized duties, rather than generalists spreading themselves thin across too many areas. This ensures the best usage of skill-sets and time. With most content development duties being conducted by someone whose primary job is to produce great content, you’ll open the door for instructors to be more productive. For more about how to better utilize your team and how to prepare for the education organization of the future, be sure to check out my on-demand webinar, “The ES Organization of the Future: Are You Prepared?”

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Maria Manning-Chapman

About Author Maria Manning-Chapman

Maria Manning-Chapman, is the distinguished vice president of education services research for TSIA. She has more than 25 years of education experience in the high-technology industry. Maria is well versed in the dynamics of running an education services business and has held leadership positions in operations, virtual learning, business development, curriculum development, delivery, and partner management over the course of her career.

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