Open Thread Wednesday: Scheduling a Department’s Courses

As one semester or quarter is coming to a close, a ProfHacker’s s thoughts inevitably turn to the next. Unless that ProfHacker is a Chair or Director of Undergraduate Studies who is responsible for planning the courses and schedules for the entire following academic year.

As a new, alt-ac faculty member in my department, I’ve recently become acquainted with how we go about this scheduling process. The DUS sends out a Word document as an attachment with six questions, ranging from asking about which core course the faculty member would prefer to teach, to graduate seminars, and the preferred time slots in which that teaching will happen. Faculty members type up their responses on the form and then return them electronically or printed out to the DUS, who then gets to work planning the schedule.

Someone in our department recently suggested that there could be a more efficient way of at least collecting the data. And I think that’s true and easy to do. A tool like Google Forms (which we’ve written about on more than one occasion) or Survey Monkey could make the data entry and collection faster for everyone involved (and who doesn’t want to be done with such things as quickly as possible). Survey Monkey even has a tool that will help you send reminders out to the people who haven’t yet filled out the form. One more obvious incentive for using electronic means to collect these data is that it comes formatted ready for a spreadsheet (one of my favorite tools), which means it will be easier to sort and then see the masochists outliers who really DO want to teach that 8:30am class on MWF.

But once the data has been made more accessible, there’s still the problem of sorting everyone and making those assignments. And that’s the question that I want to pose (perhaps somewhat selfishly) to the ProfHacker community this afternoon: does your department or program have a really great way for making those assignments once you know what people’s preferences are? Do you have a meeting with everyone? Do you have any tools (besides chocolate, coffee, or some other comfort) that help make this process any easier? Let us know in the comments!

Lead image: Bar Camp Schedule REBCPHX 2010 / Dru Bloomfield /

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