McGill University Class Scheduling Procedures

In the spring and summer of 2013 the McGill University Class Scheduling Procedures were developed to ensure that McGill’s class scheduling practices:

  • support fair and equitable distribution of instructional time and space;
  • enable the streamlining of highly complex requirements so they are not administratively burdensome to implement; 
  • provide clarity about the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved, particularly pertaining to the adjudication of requests for teaching times and spaces;
  • support Chairs and Directors effectively; and,
  • enhance students’ accessibility to classes needed to graduate, by optimizing the distribution of class instructional times.

Class Scheduling Procedures

Introduction

McGill has now had three years of experience with coordinated scheduling, resulting in some success.   However, we are still facing some fundamental challenges that have a direct negative impact on

  • students’ ability to graduate on time;
  • the use of unused space for research purposes;
  • the availability of pedagogically appropriate space; and
  • the availability of space for graduate students.

 Other issues include:

  • inequities in the distribution of classes across the day and week,
  • inequities in departmental schedules, and
  • clustering of courses between 10:00 and 14:00, Monday through Thursday, leading to major constraints on student choices of classes. 

This document should be considered as phase 3 of the Class Scheduling Project.  The original Class Scheduling Project’s principle objective was to implement software that would allow for coordinated class scheduling and would take into account various constraints in order to produce the most optimal class schedule possible and give students more choice.  Phase 1 was a pilot project on Macdonald Campus for the 2007-2008 academic year followed by phase 2 on the downtown campus for the 2010-2011 academic year.  While both phases were successful  and fully implemented  and continue to meet the basic requirements for the production of McGill’s class schedules, there remain the key issues noted above that must be resolved and are addressed in this document.

Objectives

In response to the problems identified above, these Class Scheduling Procedures should ensure that McGill’s scheduling practices:

  • enhance students’ accessibility to classes needed to graduate, by optimizing the distribution of class instructional times;
  • effectively support professors in their access to instructional and research space;
  • support the repurposing of space for research and other scholarly activities;
  • support fair and equitable distribution of instructional time and space;
  • effectively support chairs, directors, and deans in their implementation of scheduling.

Principles

  1. Optimization of students’ academic experiences: The class schedule should ensure that courses required for graduation are available and accessible.
  2. Pedagogy as a driver: The class schedule should be designed to meet the pedagogical needs of courses and programs.
  3. Research and teaching priorities: Space may be allocated for teaching, research, and other purposes, and the class schedule must be optimized to provide for the fulfillment of these activities.
  4. University ownership of instructional space: Instructional space is a valuable resource that belongs to the University as a whole and will be shared and allocated to support the broader teaching and learning needs of students and faculty as well as other University activities.
  5. Academic stewardship of instructional space: The Provost is the steward of instructional space and is responsible for ensuring that it supports the academic needs of the University.
  6. Fairness and equity:  Instructional space and time will be allocated to achieve fair and equitable distribution across disciplines.
  7. Transparency and collaboration: Units should work together in a collaborative and transparent manner in order to resolve class-scheduling conflicts.
  8. Confidentiality of conversations between instructors and their chairs, directors, or deans:  Discussions concerning reasons for constraints on the availability of an instructor’s teaching time will remain private and confidential unless released by an instructor when appealing a decision.

Goals

Class scheduling will balance a number of constraints, including the handling of academic program requirements within the limitations of teaching space and the number of available instructional hours.  

  1. Scheduling will place a priority on facilitating learning, maximizing access to courses for students, and enabling students to reach their educational goals.
  2. Scheduling will provide access to courses needed for timely completion of programs.
  3. Scheduling will reflect the need for different pedagogical approaches, such as different class durations and meeting patterns, depending on the discipline and level at which a particular course is taught.
  4. The University will endeavour to schedule classes to enable faculty members to balance their teaching, research, service, and other University activities.
  5. Classes will be scheduled across all days of the week (Monday – Friday) to maximize use of campus classrooms and minimize class conflicts for students.
  6. Optimizing the convenience of instructors with back-to-back classes and, when requested, optimizing students’ transfers between core courses within programs.

Definitions

Instructional space: For the purpose of this document, instructional space is defined as any physical location used for approved, scheduled classes. Examples of instructional space include, but are not limited to, lecture theatres, seminar rooms, classrooms, and teaching laboratories.

Teaching time:  Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 17:30 (to 21:00 for the School of Continuing Studies) are normal teaching times. It may be necessary for Enrolment Services to schedule undergraduate and graduate classes in the evening, as, for example, in the following:

    • Courses difficult to schedule otherwise
    • Courses requiring space for brief portions of the term (e.g., as part of a practicum in a professional program)

Exceptionally, teaching time may also include Saturdays and Sundays for some programs.

Who controls instructional space at McGill?

The University controls all instructional space, and the Provost is its steward.  All instructional space is to be added to the central database [Banner and TPHi (Infosilem)]. Enrolment Services will schedule courses and classrooms centrally for all schools and faculties, excluding courses that are part of the Medicine and Dentistry professional programs. The ad hoc scheduling of space will also be managed using the central database and functionality.

Classrooms and other instructional spaces may be allocated periodically to individual academic units, but the assignments are not permanent. Although academic units would have priority in such classrooms, they do not have exclusive use of them.  The space may be reallocated as the needs, priorities, and demands of the Faculty, School, or University change.

Roles

The creation of the class schedule requires the coordinated efforts of individuals across the University: Provost, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), students, deans, chairs/directors, instructors, and administrators in academic units and Enrolment Services responsible for scheduling.  The roles and responsibilities of each of these individuals or groups of individuals are outlined in Appendix A.

Prioritization

Course and program requests

The following requests will be accommodated:

  1. Course combinations – a list of courses that must not conflict or be offered on the same day  for academic or pedagogical reasons.
  2. A series of special presentations given by non-University community members may require avoiding scheduling at certain times of the week to maximize students’ availability to attend and benefit from the special lectures.

No other special course and program requests such as conferences or optional tutorials will be accommodated by Enrolment Services during the initial scheduling cycle.

Other elements that are taken into account in scheduling of classes are outlined in Appendix B.

Requests from instructors

As a general rule, classes will be scheduled within a 45-hour span of each week (8:30 to 17:30, Monday to Friday). It is understood that professors conduct research for many hours each week and have to balance that academic duty with their teaching load and other responsibilities.

Due to the complexity of balancing space limitations, student limitations and instructor limitations, classes will be given scheduling priority over other University functions.

Course and program restrictions and combinations requested by a department will take priority over instructor restrictions.

Instructors may request limitations on teaching time availability for the following reasons only, and the Chairs or Unit Heads may authorize such limitations on teaching time availability, taking into consideration the identified constraints :

  • Human rights accommodation, which must be offered in certain circumstances, unless doing so will cause undue hardship to the University. Examples that may have implications for the time and/or place of teaching include disability, pregnancy, and religion. (Please refer any questions to Human Resources.)
  • Official academic or administrative responsibilities that require an instructor’s attendance (e.g., Senate meetings.)
  • Academic responsibilities (e.g., standing meetings for specialized research collaboration, involving parties inside and outside McGill; constrained access to specialized and shared laboratories for research.)
  • The University will normally accommodate requests for a full, continuous day of research, if approved by the Chair, Director, or Dean except in rare situations such as team teaching scenarios, complicated course combinations, or a blend of the two. In such cases, Enrolment Services will contact the academic unit to consult on the development and use of an alternative option.  Further, unless there is a requirement to assign a specific day of the week for research (e.g. coordination of work with another colleague), the day will be determined by Enrolment Services based on other scheduling constraints.
  • Circumstances of a serious nature (health, family circumstances such as elder-, child-care for primary school aged children or younger): These requests, which may be made through the online ‘teaching unavailability form’, will be considered.  The Chair/Director/Dean, with knowledge of local conditions, is expected to balance the competing demands of individual instructors and the Unit’s obligation and responsibility to participate in the development of a class schedule that meets academic program and University needs and that best benefits students.  Given limited space and time resources and increasing enrolment, these requests may be approved by the Chair/Dean/Director. However, if the implementation of such approved requests is not possible without creating course conflicts, Enrolment Services will contact the unit to discuss alternate options.

Appeal process:

In exceptional cases an exemption can be granted by the Dean, or their designate, on the recommendation of the Chair.

Authority

Chairs have the authority to assign work, to decide if requests from instructors that limit their availability for teaching are acceptable, and to determine if acceptable limitations should be assigned priority under the following guidelines. Enrolment Services determines whether the approved requests can be implemented without compromising the scheduling goals of the University.  If not, the Chair is advised that the request cannot be met.  Disputes between the instructor, Chair/Director and Enrolment Services regarding approval of special requests that limit time available for teaching are to be addressed by the Associate Dean or Dean and may be referred to the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning).


Appendix  A

 

Roles

Provost

    • Stewards all instructional space at McGill.
    • Is responsible for all decisions regarding the use of space on the two campuses, including rendering decisions regarding proposed changes to the use of space.
    • Considers advice from, and is responsible for, the Teaching and Learning Spaces Working Group.
    • Ensures students’ needs and student-centeredness are considered in allocating instructional space at McGill.

Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning)

    • Arbitrates significant disputes regarding the use of space at McGill.
    • Stewards the Class Scheduling Parameters.
    • Ensures students’ needs and student-centeredness are considered in allocating instructional space at McGill.

 Deans

    • Are responsible, in collaboration with directors, chairs, and the University Registrar, for ensuring that all instructional space:

      • is included in the central database [Banner and TPHi (Infosilem)];
      • is used efficiently through the promotion and adoption of the University’s Class Scheduling Parameters.
    • Designate responsibility for the oversight of scheduling coordination within each Faculty, normally to the Chairs/Directors of academic units, but possibly to an Associate Dean.

Chairs, Directors, and Deans of Faculties without Departments

    • Ensure, in collaboration with Deans and the University Registrar, that all instructional space:

      • is included in the central database [Banner and TPHi (Infosilem)];
      • is used efficiently through the promotion and adoption of the University’s Class Scheduling Parameters.
    • Assign teaching responsibilities to instructors, taking into account their other academic duties, such as research.
    • Review and render decisions regarding requests for limitations on teaching availability from instructors and for programs (course combinations and other pedagogical requirements), ensuring the decisions are consistent with the Class Scheduling Parameters and are submitted to Enrolment Services by the specified deadline.
    • Assign scheduling coordination responsibilities within the academic unit.
      • Encourage and provide time for the person to attend training and process streamlining sessions with Enrolment Services.
      • Provides the person timely access to approved instructor availability forms.
    • Liaise with Enrolment Services to problem solve as the need arises.
    • Hire course sessional instructors in a way that optimizes their availability across a 45-hour week.

Instructors

    • Identify, and communicate to their chair/director/dean, by the deadline, technology and classroom configuration requirements for their courses as well as serious constraints that may limit their availability for teaching according to the Class Scheduling Parameters.
    • Work closely with chairs/directors and scheduling coordinators in their academic units to resolve any problems or conflicts that arise.
    • Ensure that classes start and end at their formally scheduled time.
    • Report any changes in class locations to their department.

 Students

    • Are responsible for choosing a schedule that reflects the academic requirements of their program.

Person responsible for schedule coordination in the department

    • Collaborates with chairs, directors, and deans of faculties without departments, and Enrolment Services to:
      • record all instructional space in the central database [Banner and TPHi (Infosilem)];
      • use space efficiently through the promotion and adoption of the University’s Class Scheduling Parameters.
    • Discusses and resolves, in consultation with Enrolment Services, problems that arise around scheduling.
    • Maintains accurate room locations for classes within Banner.
    • Consults with the academic advisers in their units regarding course conflicts and sequences.
    • Validates class schedule drafts, especially with reference to the details of the academic program and whether the schedule will work for students.
    • Problem solves, in collaboration with Enrolment Services, to resolve any conflicts, disputes, errors, or other challenges that emerge during the scheduling process.
    • Informs Enrolment Services by appropriate deadlines of any changes that arise that will affect the class schedule.
    • Attends training regularly.
    • Streamlines and enhances practices as new tools and technology become available.

 Enrolment Services

    • Stewards the class scheduling technology.
    • Coordinates the collections of scheduling requests and requirements for courses, programs and instructors. 
    • Creates the official class schedule and allocates instructional space for each class.
    • Stewards and manages the scheduling software, including identifying enhancements and collaborating with IT to implement new technology.
    • Provides annual reports to monitor the distribution of classes.
    • Provides training and documentation to the community of scheduling coordinators in the academic units.

Appendix B

 

How will the classes be scheduled?

1.  Credit-bearing courses and courses with CEUs, their exams, and required class events have scheduling priority over all other activities that require the use of teaching space.

2.  Allocation of instructional space will be based on the following:

  • As much as possible, the pedagogical needs of courses will determine the type of rooms assigned, if requests have been submitted and approved by the chair/director/dean.
  • Each year, the scheduling requests expressed by all academic units will drive the allocation of space, so courses will not necessarily be scheduled in the same room from year to year.

3.  The class schedule will make full use of days and times across the work week, and classes will be scheduled as follows:

a.  Classes will normally be scheduled Monday to Friday

    • Undergraduate and graduate degree courses will normally be scheduled from 8:30 to 17:30, but it may be necessary for Enrolment Services to schedule undergraduate and graduate classes in the evening, as, for example, in the following:
      • Courses difficult to schedule otherwise.
      • Courses requiring space for brief portions of the term (e.g., as part of a practicum in a professional program)
    • Continuing Studies courses will normally be scheduled from 18:00 to 21:00.
    • Scheduling practices will accommodate programs that are designed specifically for weekend delivery, such as the EMBA

b.  The following patterns, which are designed to promote flexibility and avoid class conflicts within academic programs, are used without exception for courses based on a 3 x 1 or 2 x 1.5 pattern :

    • 3 X 1 hour
      • Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (MTR)
      • Monday, Wednesday and Friday (MWF)
      • Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (TRF)
    • 2 X 1.5 hours
      • Monday and Wednesday (MW)
      • Tuesday and Thursday (TR)
      • Wednesday and Friday (WF)

c.  For the same reasons, classes are scheduled within three blocks during the day (8:30 to 11:30, 11:30 to 14:30, and 2:30 to 17:30) and must not span two blocks.

4.  Whenever possible, instructors will not be required to teach courses continuously for more than three hours or to teach more than two different courses back to back.

5.  Courses that have not received full governance approval will not be scheduled.


Appendix C

 

Resources

 

Scheduling Coordinator tools

Mandate of Teaching and Learning Spaces Working Group (TLSWG)

Quebec Charter of Human Rights (particularly Chapter I.1, 10)

Quebec Prohibited grounds: race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.

Canadian Human Rights Act (particularly 3. (1) and 3. (2))

Canada: (1) Prohibited grounds:  race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.
(2) Pregnancy or child-birth - Ground: sex