important job that every chair must attempt to master is scheduling. Scheduling
is very much like playing chess and takes many years to master. Like chess, you
have a game board (the room scheduler), players (teachers), pieces (classes),
and rules (the where, when, why, what, and who of curricular offerings). Let’s
start by understanding that the perfect schedule has never been written. Let’s
also understand that the world is in flux and changing circumstances force us
to revise our near perfect schedules every time an event beyond our control
forces us to react. Some departments are easier to schedule than others. The
size of the department is the major determiner of how difficult your task will
be. The other factor is the complexity of your program offerings. If every
student has to follow the same course track then schedules will be predictable
from semester to semester. The entire scheduling process is continually
destabilized by the needs of the adjunct faculty members you supervise. Their
precarious financial condition requires you to be humane and accommodating in
the assignment of their classes, especially when their circumstances change at
the last minute.
department we have a BA degree program with five concentrations. We also offer
the BFA degree for four performance concentrations as well as music and audio
technology. That means that the curricular needs of the department and the
scheduling needs of the paying customers are sometimes operating at cross
purposes on multiple levels, much like three-dimensional chess or a
Mensa-designed video game. Soon enough you will come to understand that you
cannot please all the people all the time. The creation of teaching schedules
must take into account faculty interests and expertise, time constraints and
space limitations, economic exigencies, and a host of other factors many of which
are beyond your control.
The Grand Schedule: The process of scheduling begins with
the Grand Schedule. This is a list of all the courses the department has
offered in the past ten years or might offer in the next five. This schedule
can have as little as four columns or as many as six depending on the number of
semesters you offer courses each academic year: course number, course name,
fall, winter, spring, summer. As you can see from the example, the number of
sections needed is put in the appropriate semester box. It is very helpful to
color-coded courses that are offered every semester (purple), only in the fall
(orange), only in the spring (light green), or on an irregular basis in blue.
This helps you spot the courses you need to include for a particular semester
more easily. You can construct this list from the Bulletin. Checking the master
list of courses on SIMS is often quite instructive. You can ask the Scheduling
Office to send a copy.
Scheduling Spread Sheet: Next, take the relevant data from the
Grand Schedule and enter it on a spreadsheet that will, by design, effectively serve both you and the Scheduling
Office. The spreadsheet should have ten columns: course number, section, course
name, teaching hours, lower class size limit, upper class size limit, days,
times, rooms, and instructor. Much of the data on this spreadsheet will be
usable from semester to semester, or from year to year. When you have
accumulated a library of spreadsheets all you need to do is take the previous equivalent
schedule and delete the courses you will not be offering this time and add
those that you will. This can be facilitated if you color-code the special
courses that change from year to year.
If your Grand
Schedule is under control this will be relatively easy. By under control I mean
that 90% of your course offerings are pre-planned on a two-year basis. You want
to make sure that you offer all required courses frequently enough so that
students can graduate on time. There will always be experimental or elective courses
that are offered on an as-needed basis but they should be kept to a minimum.
Most importantly, you and your students need to know well in advance when
required courses will be offered so that the path to graduation can be planned
efficiently. It is critical to check that you have not scheduled required
courses for particular groups of people at the same time. Quite often we find
these conflicts during registration when it is difficult to adjust the schedule
to rectify the problem, so double check early.
To determine how
many sections of general education courses you will need you should consult the
registration numbers from previous semesters as reported in SIMS (CSQ). This
will help you plan courses that are well attended. This should help to avoid the
embarrassing questions that come from above about enrollments that are in the
single digits. You also need to find out if the incoming freshman class size will
change from last year. We get that information from Admissions.
Faculty Workload Report: The next step in the process is to
determine what courses will be taught by your full-time faculty members. Begin
by asking your people what they would like to teach. This allows them to tell
you their personal preferences and scheduling necessities. You also find out if
they will be on fellowship leave, in Timbuktu on a Fullbright, or teaching at
the Graduate Center. If you have several people who are all interested in
teaching the same class you will need to set up a separate schedule of teaching
rotation so that, over time, everyone gets a chance to teach that particular
course. You must make sure that faculty members are assigned the correct number
of teaching and non-teaching hours according to the contract: 21 hours a year
for professors and 27 hours for lecturers. Once they have been assigned to
particular courses you can see what still needs to be covered by your phalanx
of adjuncts. Try to give these under-paid and too-often under-appreciated
people a schedule that is tight, meaning back-to-back classes on one- or two-day
schedules. This is important because they need to get to their other jobs so
they can feed their families. It is very important to find out when they are
available before you begin adjunct assignments. Adjuncts who have been with you
for six consecutive semesters must be hired by the academic year.
The Room Schedule: This is where it all comes together.
The room schedule is your game board. You have a certain number of classes you
want to offer and you want to place them in the appropriate rooms at the most
opportune times. This chart will have two axes: time and space. Put the time
periods (by the half hour) on the vertical axis starting with 8:00AM. On the
horizontal axis put the room numbers available to you. It is important to know
the capacity of each space, so you may actually have to visit each room and
count the chairs. You don’t want to schedule SRO classes! Certain rooms have
particular purposes or equipment that are important to keep in mind.
Take the course
data from your Scheduling Spreadsheet and enter it on the room schedule. Begin
with the required courses for your majors. Put the course number and section in
the box when the class begins followed by the instructor’s name in the box
below. Then color code the data according to the degree track it serves. On my
room schedule all GenEd courses are blue, theory and musicianship are gold,
jazz courses are red, graduate courses are green, etc. This helps avoid
scheduling conflicts for students in particular tracks. The more data you put
on the room schedule the more difficult the task becomes because the options
decrease. This process often reminds one of a Rubik’s Cube because changing one
class time or room usually affects many other assignments. This part of the
process requires much finesse and prior experience.
The final product: After you have done all this you have a
schedule that you think works just fine. Verify that this is truly the case by
sending the schedule and room chart to all teachers who are affected by your
Herculean efforts. The more eyes you have inspecting your handiwork the more
accurate it will be. Be prepared to make changes suggested by your teaching
staff. Warning: The editing process is often more time consuming than the planning.
Below is a
suggested timeline for the submission and correction of your final product for
fall semesters. Make every attempt to adhere to this timeline because many
people and much work go into the publication of the Course Schedule that is
posted online. Get to know the nice people who work in the Scheduling Office
because you will need their help and good humor when you want to make all those
last minute changes. Hang in there; it gets easier.
SCHEDULING TIMELINE: FALL SEMESTER
November 1 Departments to send
schedules to Scheduling.
February 1 Edited Schedules sent back to departments
February 21 Final deadline for scheduling changes.
March 21 Final schedule sent to departments
for error checking.
April 1 Schedule
of classes is posted online.
April 21 Final
Examination schedule is posted online.
Middle of June New Student registration begins
July 1 Updated
Instructor lists due to scheduling. July 15 Phase 1 cancellations sent to registrar’s
office. August 1 Last day to submit TBA information to
August 15 Phase 2 cancellations sent to registrar’s
End ofAugust Last
day of registration (day before classes begin)
End ofAugust Classes
Early September Preliminary
enrollment report due to CUNY September 15 Last day to submit Independent Study
October 1 Staff
and teaching Load reports sent to departments.
October 15 Staff
and teaching Load reports due to scheduling.