4 reasons to keep the ofCourse schedule in sync with your school’s parent system

Two months ago we talked about some strategies for getting the ofCourse-produced schedule into your parent system. We all agree that the rules preventing third-party technologies from connecting directly into a school's system of record is not something that is bound to change in the near or distant future. But, the biggest and more relevant question is NOT getting the schedule ported to the parent, BUT what happens when there are changes to the schedule AFTER it has been ported to the parent? How should an ofCourse admin approach the inevitable changes that are coming? As with nearly all things, there are a couple of routes you can go. Below I will discuss one of the more prevalent paths we see. 

No one questions that changes are coming to your finished schedule. The only uncertainty is how much time passes before those requests begin. The rudimentary approach would be to say that one uses the ofCourse system to do the preference collection, initial build, and polish but the onesie-twosie changes that come after publication can just be done manually in the parent system. This is a possibility, but I would contend, not the best one. 

There are a couple of reasons to run your changes through the ofCourse system before entering them into the parent. Yes, I do realize I am suggesting maintaining a large and complex body of data in two systems but allow me to outline the benefits of doing this extra bit of labor. There are four meaningful reasons to continue using the ofCourse system even after the schedule has been ported to your schools' system of record. 

  • The Collision Management System
  • The Polished Schedule Reports
  • The Public Schedule Views 
  • The Historical Reports

All of these features have likely appeared in these newsletter archives over the years but let me briefly re-visit each now in the name of this conversation.

First, the Collision Management System. It's likely no surprise I'm starting here as this is the most-loved feature of our platform. There are few things more daunting than being asked to cut into what you know to be a healthy, conflict-free schedule. Our Collision Management System turns open heart surgery into a Sunday morning game of Operation with the kids. When asked to make changes, plot your path, make your updates, and then lean on the Collision Management System. If you created a conflict between a Room, Prof or Section the system tells you when and where it happened. Adjust your settings and try again. And again, until you get the all clear. And the all clear does not just apply to the schedule, it also applies to your nervous system as you will breathe and sleep better knowing your modifications have been checked and blessed before moving them into the parent system.

Second, the Polished Reports. Ok, so maybe you didn't create an outright conflict, but other blemishes can degrade a schedule. Maybe you just scheduled a classroom with only a few minutes between classes. Or have just left a professor with only five minutes between classes (and in classrooms not very close). Or just booked a popular class on top of another popular class. Or if you're a law school, you may have just wrecked one of your First Year's section schedule (by giving them an early morning class AND a late afternoon class). There's a number of things that aren't actual overlaps that can mar a schedule. The Polished Schedule Reports found in step 5 expose these sorts of bumps in your schedule's landscape.

Third, the Public Schedule Views found in ofCourse remain to be one of the best ways we have seen to share a suggested schedule. So, in this case, if you'd like to share your changes before committing them to the master record (e.g., school's parent system), you can use any or all of the public views offered in Step 5 to communicate your changes. Because of the real-time nature of these reports, these views consistently offer the best method of quickly communicating your schedule to your collaborators (deans, committees) or constituents (faculty, students). Admittedly, the hardest part to this bit might be choosing which public view you love most. 

Lastly and possibly most importantly, the Historical Views. Way, way back in Step One there are two directories offered. One lists your Faculty and the other lists your Courses. If you pull up a Faculty or Course profile, at the bottom of the page is a teaching history for that item. This historical data offers numerous benefits, but the biggest may be when you need help trying to make a scheduling decision. How many times was this offered in the last three years? Of these three professors, who was the last to teach an early morning class or possibly, who has never taught an early morning class? When needed, one cannot argue the value of this real-time accounting. The data shown in those reports come from the polished schedule in Step 5, so it is paramount if you wish to rely on these historical views, that the data in Step 5 be kept current with your production schedule. Fact is, even with as valuable as the previous three features were, this may be the most compelling reason to keep parity between the two systems. 

So as you can see, there are many benefits to continuing to run any schedule modifications through the ofCourse system even after entering the approved schedule into the school's parent. In closing, let me add one more reason you should include the ofCourse system in your post-production modifications--the ofCourse Scheduler is FUN to use. We hear it in the feedback. We see it in the logs. People like interacting with their data through the ofCourse pages. We get it because we like traipsing through the colorful and dynamic screens too. How many work-related technology systems in your life offer that?

As always, see you on the scheduling pitch.

Troy

Troy Dearmitt

Troy is the CTO & Co-founder at ofCourse.

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