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Fall 2020 Social Distancing with Astra Schedule

by Maggie Roberts

COVID-19 threw academic scheduling teams a curve ball when they were forced to halt all in-person learning and transition to an online delivery format for the remainder of spring 2020. This delivery method will continue for summer 2020 for most institutions, but what does this mean for the upcoming fall semester? According to Edward J. Maloney and Joshua Kim at Inside Higher Ed, there are 15 scenarios that colleges and universities are considering in order to plan for the unpredictable times ahead. We want to support as many of those scenarios as possible, so we’ve highlighted some options that you have when scenario modeling fall 2020 in your Astra Schedule environment. 


1. Request a Temporary Test Site 

Did you know that you can request a temporary test site that is a replica of your Astra Schedule site? It will have your same data – users, rooms, sections, events – as your production site when the backup is taken. It's static, meaning after the test site is created, it won’t update with production data, but that’s what you want when scenario modeling! This is a great way to test and implement different options that you have using your current setup without impacting your production site. To request a test site, please submit a support ticket.  


2. Optimize to 50% Capacity 
Many colleges and universities are taking social distancing into account when assigning rooms for classes. Classes are being optimized into rooms that are double the max enrollment, allowing students to sit in every other seat. In order to make this a smooth process, the Client Success Team has created an easy process to take rooms in a specific room type(s) or region(s) and cut them in half. We’ve outlined a few steps to set up this process below: 

  1. Request test site. 
  2. Client Success Team runs script to cut rooms in your selected room type(s) or region(s) in half. 
  3. Drop room assignments for fall 2020 using the optimizer. 
  4. Optional: Manually assign larger classes to an Online room (classes with a large enrollment that don't have the option for a room on campus that would allow for 50% capacity). 
  5. Optimize Fall 2020 using Keep Existing Room Assignments. 

It’s important to note that your Scheduling Preferences may need to be modified to allow for classes to go into different rooms than they're used to being assigned. You can clone your existing scheduling preference to preserve your original set. 


3. Optimize Every Other Room 

Social distancing can also be considered by optimizing the use of every other classroom in a building. Regions can be leveraged to assign classes into every other room. Simply create a region selecting the appropriate rooms, leaving out the rooms you don't want scheduled. Optimize your schedule as normal, though you may need to adjust your scheduling preferences. If you wish to assign certain meeting patterns into these rooms, you can use the Meeting Patterns option in the sandbox to select the relevant sections for these rooms. 


4. Optimize Select Student Populations 

Are you considering only allowing certain groups of students to be on campus? Freshman? Graduate students? If so, you can tell the optimizer to only assign rooms to courses based on subject or department, and creating a department is the best way to handle this situation. Departments are comprised of courses and created manually in Astra Schedule. Use the department to run the optimizer on your select courses by using the Departments filter option in the sandbox. You may want to drop room assignments and update your scheduling preferences before running this model. 

To help inform your decisions, we recommend using the following reports to easily see your section information in a consumable format. 

  • Meeting Patterns in Use – Use this report to view your sections grouped by their meeting patterns to help inform your decision to utilize every other room. 
  • Summary of Sections by Enrollment – Use this report to easily digest how many sections may need to go online to adhere to the 50% capacity rule. 
  • Percent of Rooms in Use by Day and Time for Selected Room Type – Use this report as a visual to find your peak times throughout the day to see when you should focus on offering online classes. 
  • Sections by Selected Meeting Type for Selected Term – Use this report to view your sections based on how they're offered. For example, if you want just your lectures to be offered online or in 50% capacity, this report can limit your view to just those sections. 
  • Sections by Department for Selected Term – Use this report to view the sections offered in departments youve created in Astra Schedule. 

As always, Ad Astra is here to help you during your scheduling process, no matter the curveball thrown at you. Please reach out to your Client Success Manager or log a support ticket if you’d like to discuss any of these options further! Don’t forget that we also have a webinar on Scenario Modeling with Room Optimization! 

Maloney, Edward J. and Joshua Kim. 2020. “15 Fall Scenarios.” Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 23, 2020 (https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/learning-innovation/15-fall-scenarios#.XqBEfferWU8.link 

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COVID-19 Astra Schedule