Online classroom scheduling system to debut next fall

Kristin Frey

After classroom scheduling confusion during fall registration, the University has decided to move its scheduling system online next fall.

Departments are now able to use the Internet to schedule classes, which means instant feedback and fewer scheduling errors, said Nancy Peterson, a student support services associate.

While the University previously scheduled classes by paper, the new system is entirely Web based, Peterson said. Faculty members can enter their course information online for six weeks before registration and make corrections.

The information is loaded into the University’s database, PeopleSoft, and posted online for student registration.

The University implemented the system to ensure departments schedule their courses throughout the week. The system notifies departments if they schedule more than 60 percent of their classes between 9:05 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., which the University considers peak hours.

Balancing courses inside and outside peak hours will open classroom space, Peterson said.

“If the departments limited their time for peak schedule, there would be enough room for people to schedule their needs,” she said.

Steve Fitzgerald, departmental director for the Office of Classroom Management, said classroom shortage is a supply and demand issue.

When the University was under the quarter system, he said, it needed to schedule 10,200 sections. On the semester plan, the University needed to find spaces for 14,000 per semester.

“That it’s almost a 40 percent increase is the demand part of the equation,” Fitzgerald said.

The system helps schedule general-purpose classrooms designed to meet the teaching and learning needs of the broad campus community, but does not deal with departmental classrooms, which are more specialized like dance or art studios and labs, he said.

Fitzgerald said there are about 62 general buildings throughout the East Bank, West Bank and St. Paul campuses, and about 300 rooms, which have about of 23,000 seats.

“Electronic course scheduling is one of a whole series of projects that are designed to optimize our scheduling classroom resources,” he said.

Classroom renovations are only a byproduct of the room shortage issues, Fitzgerald said.

“The concern is about making sure the large classes are meeting at appropriate times,” said Judith Martin, Faculty Consultative Committee chairwoman.

Martin said departments are encouraged to schedule classes at more regular times, meaning 50-minute periods Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or 75-minute periods on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

She said the University runs into problems when classes try to meet at odd hours and take up two class periods.

“Ideally, what this system should do for students is, there should be more availability for students to have class across the day and the week,” she said.

Fitzgerald said the departments are using the system to prepare for fall registration.

“We are hopeful the electronic classroom scheduling for the first time will help us solve unplaced course problems before registration,” he said.

He said the system would minimize classroom changes after registration.