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Seeking recommendations on course scheduling software (not registration software).

Posted on February 2nd, 2012 by Anne Cardale, OLLI National Resource Center

Katy Crapo, OLLI at University of Georgia, Asks OLLI:

OLLI@UGA is looking for software to assist its Curriculum Committee with course scheduling. We do not need registration software. We already have that. However, what we do need is a way to “plug in” our courses and move them around. Up to this point, the Chair of the Curriculum Committee is the sole person responsible for this, and she does all this work manually. We want an application that would centralize information in such a way that a number of people could assist in the class scheduling. Does anyone have any recommendations for us?

5 Responses to “Seeking recommendations on course scheduling software (not registration software).”

  1. Katy, we are using Google Docs (primarily spreadsheets and documents) more and more. These documents can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection and can support multiple users, even if they are all editing simultaneously. Going to Google Docs has made our catalog production process much easier: our editors, proofreaders and program coordinators can all see and work from the same document, and they don’t need to come in to the office to accomplish their tasks.

    We don’t do room scheduling in the way you wish to, but we do have a similar constraint when scheduling courses for our computer labs. We use a Google Doc to publish the final result, so our volunteers can see when the labs are in use and when they are free: what course precedes and follows theirs, etc.

    Its a great collaborative tool and the price is right = free!

  2. OLLI@UND doesn’t use any software (as of now) and I am the only one that does the scheduling. It is a huge job but instructors share with me their preference of days and times their schedules will allow them to teach. From there I start building a calendar using Excel. There is much negoitiating and lots of changes before the catalog goes to print but the calendar helps me see everything at once. I welcome any and all suggestions, ideas and concerns from OLLI members and colleagues. And co-workers are able to go into that drive and look at the calendar but heaven help them if they monkey with my calendar! Long story short, whatever system or software you end up with, only ONE person should be allowed to move the courses around. Good luck! If you would like me to send samples of my calendars I’d be happy to do so. They are somewhat elementary - but it works for me.

  3. I wish I could put everyone interested in this topic in one room and do a demo. I have so much to say on this topic I had to type it in a word doc so I could see everything and have the assistance of spell check.
    We have some nifty approaches - but of course I am a bit biased in that regard. I can say they work for us and have saved me enormous amounts of time.
    Katy, for what I understand your need to be I think Google Calendars would be a great tool. You can create an event for each class. You can set it up for multiple weeks. You can control who can look and who can edit. Like Connie I do all the scheduling. I show the curriculum committee the final schedule and ask them to look for classes they think will draw the same students to be sure they are scheduled during the same period. Occasionally a committee member will say they’d really like to take a class and they have a schedule conflict. If I can accommodate that without capsizing the ship I do. It is one of the benefits of being on the committee and a small way I can thank them. I don’t use Google Calendars for this but I do use it for scheduling our special events. In this case I have a couple of volunteers scheduling events and this way they can see what the others are doing so we don’t create schedule conflicts.
    Connie, for the scheduling I do something I call the chicklet game - for some reason the process reminds me of those little plastic toys we had when we were kids - - movable pieces with just one empty square and you had to move things around until you got them in order - a 2D version of Rubics cube which I have never taken the time to master. Anyway, I digress.
    To play the chicklet game I create nested tables in MS Word. Each course has a table that shows me the instructor preferences - basically a miniature version of the available periods - an 1, 2, 3 in the period tells me it is the instructor’s first, second, or third choice. An x in the cell tells me it is a time they can also do the class. The schedule is a table with a cell for each day/time period I have available. I can put the little tables inside the schedule blocks. I put in the courses for which the instructor has the least scheduling flexibility first - e.g., the ones who say I can only teach Tuesday at 1:30. Then I work in the ones for which we have more options.
    Creating the miniature tables sounds like a lot of work but I actually have a magic spreadsheet that creates them for me from an export of my database. When a course proposal comes in we enter all the info into an access database. Then we can manipulate it and pull it out in the many ways we need the info using queries. We can export the query info to a spreadsheet or merge directly into a word doc – a letter of agreement for example. Excel works better for some things and word work better for others.

  4. I use Microsoft Outlook Calendar, a feature of our University software, to plot out the various Osher programs (mini courses, interest groups, one-off lectures for each semester. If you use Outlook you know that appointments are easy to move, easy to make recurring over several weeks, eo week, etc. I use a separate calendar from our other appointments calendar. The Osher office admin. assistant and I share the Osher calendar and we are both able to add notes to the program within the calendar item. This method doesn’t lend itself to sharing with folks who don’t have Outlook on the campus computers but does help with planning and sharing between staff on campus. I’m glad to hear about the Google tools and will check those out as well.

  5. Thanks very much to everyone for such excellent suggestions. We will now look carefully at all of these ideas. Isn’t this group a terrific resource? Thanks again!

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