Classes with special designations: no classroom, online-only, weekend

In a simple and conflict-free world, every class would have a straightforward and traditional course configuration. Every Monday and Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. Or perhaps the class meets on Tuesday or Thursdays. Or it is a big one and meets three days a week on the MWF format. There was a time that was about the extent of the variety of course formats. But that time has passed.

Now you have weekend options, online options, options that meet in the courtyard or options that meet when a student wants to meet. Leaning on a mechanized solution to address every one of these sorts of cattywampus possibilities is a reasonably big ask. But, the lion's share of the things we have asked the ofCourse scheduler to do have been unreasonable to some degree (like solving a 150-class constraint-heavy, preference-governed schedule in 300 seconds). So, we just folded it in as just another rung on our very tall ladder.

At its purest, the goal was to add classes into the system in such a way that the admin could step away moving to the next problem with confidence. As a group these courses get assigned what we call a Special Designation. When we first set up a school, we will add a starter set of Special Designations. They are:

  • The class does not require a classroom
  • This is a weekend class
  • This is an online class

In each of the above scenarios, you need to account for the class, that is let your administration, faculty, and students know that such a course exists but you also need it to not interfere with the scheduling of your other, more traditional courses.

There is one caveat to the above. The No Classroom option comes in two flavors. The first is the course does not need a classroom AND the professors time does NOT need protection. This might get set if a prof is going to offer an independent study with a student or two. In those cases, the professor and student may have the freedom to pick a time that works for both of their schedules. Conversely, the other No Classroom option allows you to say that while the professor does not need a room, they do need their time guarded. In this case, perhaps a course will be offered but they are going to meet in the library or courtyard, and subsequently, do not need one of your conventional teaching spaces. But just because they do not need a regular room doesn't mean they don't need to meet as a group, so a time still needs to be protected, especially for the teacher, so you can set it to No Classroom but WITH time protection.

Of course, there was a minor problem at the start of how to announce these classes on a schedule since most of the Special Designation courses would not have a spot on a weekly graphical grid of your courses. So that they still get included, we present them at the bottom of the standard weekly display listed by category (e.g., Courses Not Requiring a Classroom, or Weekend Courses, or Online Courses).

Further, each Special Designation class may have a NOTE attached to it that gives additional information about the class. For example, you might say that this Online class will only meet until the second week of October or you might say that this weekend course will meet off-campus at a specified location.

One last note about the Special Designations. I mentioned above that we get you started off with an initial set of Special Designations. We do have the ability to add more options to that stack should your school have other categories. Adding more is not a problem.

Because of our self-prescribed mandate to enable you to get your FULL courseload detailed on the system so you can move onto the next step and know that you've got everything accounted for, we needed to build this extension. We are confident that it will button up some holes that our admins have had to find creative avenues to deal with in the past. Based on the early reception of this feature, I think it will soon be a high-traffic and coveted feature embraced by all.

As always, see you on the scheduling pitch.


Troy Dearmitt

Troy is the CTO & Co-founder at ofCourse.

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