Year in review: Product updates in 2021

This year has thankfully looked a little more familiar to us all than 2020. Because of this we were able to get back to extending the system in more conventional ways that will carry longer-lasting benefits.

Support for 5-minute start-times in Steps 3 and 4

Step 4 has historically scheduled everything at the top, bottom, or quarter hours. We now allow start times at any five-minute increment in Step 4 computed builds. This update carries more implications than it might seem at first glance.

  • Set Registrar Preferences (in Step 3) to any five-minute increment (instead of choosing the closest quarter-block). This equates to less Step 5 polishing because you can now set Registrar prefs to precise times in Step 3 and not worry about them again!
  • Succinctly honor school start/block lines through faculty preferences (e.g., 9:10, 1:40). This will involve some fine-tuning of your preference forms, but if it applies to your school/schedule, it should equal even more time savings (again, through less Step 5 polishing). If you would like to review your faculty prefs, send me a note, and we can make any necessary adjustments.
  • Expanded schedule views display the schedule at 5-minute intervals (when relevant), which means no more grouping three start times (e.g., 9:00, 9:05, 9:10) into a single row. This should make your review and edit process vastly easier as you won't have to scan the specific start times of a row to see if they are all in sync (e.g., all set to 9:10). It will also make things more clear and readable on the graphical public views for your faculty and students.

ofCourse 101 training videos

All scheduling teams will experience role rotations at one point, and seamless transition requires proper training. This year we took a large step in mitigating this routine need by creating a video library covering the entire ofCourse workflow. New admins to your scheduling team can watch on their timeline and over and over if they'd like. Experienced admins can also take advantage of this content to review features through the video-bookmarking that lets you jump in at any point. We believe this new series will create more able and confident scheduling teams no matter what sort of turnover you might have seen.

ofCourse 201 training videos

We are also working on a video series that discusses advanced topics for our seasoned admins. While it may never be possible to make a perfect schedule, it is certainly reasonable to see that your next schedule is stronger than your last schedule. These videos will help you do that more with more certainty and consistency.

SIS section-number support

You can now include your parent-system SIS section identifiers in your ofCourse schedule views. This would be the difference in having ENGL-201 appear four times on one schedule versus showing them as ENGL-201-01, ENGL-201-02, ENGL-201-03, ENGL-201-04. For some environments, this can make a pretty dramatic difference for both the schedule-makers and consumers (e.g., faculty and students). If your school environment would benefit from having this additional detail as part of your end views, send me a note, and we can get you set up.

Extended System Reporting

You will find a new option in the Footer Navigation called System Reporting. This new area provides cumulative historical reports on your ofCourse data. Whether you want to review EVERY Step 2 courseload you ever entered or review ALL of your final schedules by Term or Tag, you can now do so with a single button-click. This will provide the data in an Excel format to cut it up and organize as needed. We will be adding to these reports as suggestions come in. If you have an idea for a data-dump that might be helpful, let us know.

Last year's update mentioned two items in progress which I'm happy to report are both finished and are now happily part of the system.

Faculty-Course level genre protection

The course diversity engine is one of ofCourse's most powerful features. It originally protected diversity at the course level, meaning it would protect every instance of the class. But now, can isolate specific sections of a class to receive this diversity protection. Let me give an example of how you could use this. Let's say you create a new Genre called "Popular Classes." Next, you would flag the seven classes you feel the most students will want to take. Of course, there will be times when you offer multiple sections of a class, but it is only popular when Professor X teaches it, so you want to flag that specific class/faculty combo. Now you can. As you would guess, this ability creates a whole new branch of diversity controls that will do a lot to ensure your next schedules can be your best yet.

Configurable public views

We added some abilities here for you to manage and control what gets included in your public views. Right now, these take the form of showing and/or hiding some information like room assignments or course capacities. We are still working on some additional controls, one of which includes some color options so you can set the colors used on the course boxes.

In the pipeline

As always, always, always, there is more in the pipeline. While we have many things in the works, here are a few I'm confident will be ready for you this scheduling season.

More granular preference weightings

When you run a schedule, you will now have finer control over the preference weightings (e.g. Tenured vs Non-Tenured profs) than you have in the past. This will allow for more schedule variety and oversight on how things are landing.

Priority preferences

Being able to flag specific situations for special "priority" treatment has been something asked about for years. This powerful ability allows you to reward/protect certain preferences that you really want/need to be met (without using a reg-set).

Comment manager

The Comment Management System is being completely rebuilt. The new interface will offer an entirely re-imagined experience that provides an intuitive ease-of-use ofCourse is known for. First, we made scheduling enjoyable. Now we are about to make working your faculty comments enjoyable too.

Schedule debriefing tools

Lastly we are working on a new administrative assistant that will record all of your thoughts and hopes for next year's schedule. Promises you made. Problems you observed. You will now have the ability to make note of all them in one handy spot so they will be there waiting for you when you break ground on next year's build.

We hope you are as excited to use these new features in the coming year as we are to offer them. 

As always, we look forward to seeing you on the scheduling pitch.

Troy.

More ofCourse feature updates

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Troy Dearmitt

Troy is the CTO & Co-founder at ofCourse.

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