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3. Gathering Faculty Preferences


3.1 Overview

You no longer need to sort through emails from faculty requesting times and rooms for their sections. Coursedog automates this process. Preferences can be collected through preference forms or directly edited within the Section Editor (Instructors Tab). These preferences can be used to streamline manual or optimizer assignments.


3.2 Building a Preference Form

Coursedog Preference forms are online web forms used to collect Instructor preferences. These forms are built by administrators or department schedulers and sent out via a share link. This share link allows instructors to securely access the form without requiring a Coursedog account. However, instructors must first be added to the Coursedog system before they can submit preferences. 


Preference forms can also be associated with a specific department. If the Math department creates a preference form, by default, the form will only allow Math Instructors to submit preferences. It is suggested to segment out forms by the department, thereby limiting the number of responses each form receives, making it easier to review. However, you can also create forms that allow all instructors in the institution to submit preferences. 


To gather preferences, you will start by building a custom form that matches the needs for your department and institution. Head to the Preference Forms dashboard by selecting 'Preference Forms' on the left navigation. 


Here you will be able to see any forms that you have used, are recommended or that someone at your institution has created. Coursedog comes with a couple recommended templates to help get you started, but you can always create a new form by selecting '+ New Form.'

To understand the functionality of these forms, let’s create a new form for the computer science department

After clicking 'Create,' we are taken to the preference form builder where we can customize the questions and layout of our form. 


Questions

While it may sound obvious, the questions you choose to include in your form are vital to gathering valuable preferences. To add a question, simply select the type of question from the question bank on the left and watch it appear in your form. Question types with a downstream functional impact on time and room assignments are outlined below:

Preference Type

Description

Preferred Courses

The courses an instructor prefers to teach

Preferred Times

The times an instructor prefers to teach

Conflict Times

A time an instructor can’t teach or is unavailable

Preferred Meeting Length

The length of meeting pattern that an instructor prefers to teach

Time Interval Between Courses

The amount of time instructors want between courses

Back to Back Courses

If instructors wish to teach back to back, they can specify how many back to back courses they want, and if these courses should be in the same room

Preferred Rooms

The rooms in which an instructor prefers to teach

Preferred Building

The building in which an instructor prefers to teach

Preferred Room Type

The room type in which an instructor prefers to teach. An example would be “Seminar room”

Preferred Room Capacity

The capacity of a room in which an instructor prefers to teach

Preferred Room Features

The features of a room in which an instructor prefers to teach


Questions are easy to add and customize. The important thing to remember is that there are three types of questions that allow the Coursedog algorithm to provide recommendations during the scheduling process:

  1. Preferred Courses

  2. Time Preferences

  3. Room Preferences


Course Select, Dropdown, Multiple Choice, Yes No, and Text questions will simply provide information for your reference. The difference between Course Select and Preferred Courses is that the latter will notify you when assigning an instructor whether they are a good fit. If Preference questions are embedded under a Course Select question they will not be captured in the faculty member's profile or impact time or room assignment recommendations. See additional details on this below.


The three question types above, Preferred Courses, Time Preferences, and Room Preferences will actually notify you when assigning an instructor if they are a good fit based on their responses. To understand this, let’s look at an example.


When scheduling instructors, it is essential to know when they are not available to teach. We can add a 'Time Preferences' question and ask instructors, “What times can you NOT teach?”


In the settings on the left, we set the question to 'Conflict Times' which means a conflict will arise if you try to schedule a teacher during a time they cannot teach. We will also make the question required by switching the ‘Is Required’ knob to blue. This way, you can ensure that any conflicts will be taken care of before the schedule is submitted. 


Here is an example of how preferences will appear in the instructor selection modal within the Section Editor (refer to this article for more details on section scheduling):


Global Preferences vs. Course-Specific Preferences

Preferences can either be global, or course-specific. Global preferences impact scheduling recommendations for all courses the faculty member is assigned to, whereas course-specific preferences impact scheduling recommendations for preferred courses, as demonstrated below:


Capturing course-specific preferences is done through asking 'follow-up' questions below the Preferred Course question, whereas global preferences are not embedded below any question:


As shown above, Preferred Times are captured for a specific course whereas Conflict Times are stored globally.


3.3 Sharing the Form

Once a form has been built, it can be shared with instructors. To share the form, click on 'Share' in the top right corner of the form builder. Then click on the 'Create Link' button. This will create a secure share link for the form. Optionally, you may also set a password for the form that users need to enter before filling it out. Once you have the link, copy it, and send it to your instructors. 

Instructors can complete the form right in their browser and the results will automatically be recorded in the system. Our system will automatically save a draft of the responses on every edit, but will not submit the form until the instructor has clicked the 'Submit' button at the bottom of the page.  

Additionally, users with the "Instructor" role can now log in to the preference form directly via the Instructor Dashboard. If schools opt to direct instructors to their dashboard to fill out their form, they may revoke all public links to the form by clicking on the "Make It Private" button.

3.4 Viewing Responses

Responses can be accessed right within the form by clicking ‘Responses’ at the top right, where you can see responses for each instructor that has filled out the form. Below is an example of a form response. There is also a CSV report that is built automatically to view the responses all at one time. 


You will also see that each individual’s preferences are updated in their instructor profile (Section Editor > "Instructors" tab > *select individual*). You may manually change an instructor’s preferences here by clicking the blue button next to "Instructor Preferences" in their profile.

Inside of the instructor preferences view, users can edit a variety of preferences.


3.5 Copying a Preference Form for a New Term

Preference forms are term-specific. If you would like to view the forms associated with a given term, navigate to 'Preference Forms' and click on the term to select a new one.

If you would like to copy an existing form and use it for a new term, you may also do so. Within the form, hover over the term on the top left of the screen and click on the 'copy' icon. You may now select which term you would like to copy the form to, select relevant Departments for the form, and re-name the form if desired.


As you can see below, the form is now available in the new term (Spring 2020).


3.6 Who can Add, Edit, and View Preference Forms?

The super admin can grant users access to forms on a role basis. This can be done under Settings > Roles > *Desired Role* > Preference Forms

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