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This document is intended to describe the history of the Scheduling Assistant project from it's beginning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison through it's incubation with Jasig.

Status: work in progress.

A Request from Academic Advisors

In the Summer of 2008, Academic Advisors from the School of Nursing came to the WiscCal team with a problem. They had adopted WiscCal (the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Oracle Calendar instance) and used it internally for scheduling meetings. They had also come up with a system for scheduling appointments with their students, however they identified quickly they needed help.

Their solution looked like the following:

insert screenshot

Students were instructed to call the advising office to request an appointment. The program assistant would identify the student over the phone and use the student information system to identify which advisor was assigned. The program assistant would then look at the post it note for that advisor to identify their "advising office hours." That information in turn would be used by looking at that advisor's schedule in WiscCal for an available appointment. The program assistant would construct an appointment in the advisor's schedule, relaying any notes that the student provided, and including the students identification number in the details to allow the advisor to prepare.

This system works ok, but in the weeks leading up to open enrollment it certainly was time consuming.

The advisors wanted a mechanism where by:

  • The student was automatically connected to their assigned advisor.
  • The student was not allowed to create appointments outside of the advisor's defined office hours.
  • The student picked from a list of available appointments.
  • The student was constrained to pick within a certain window, e.g. no appointments less than 24 hours from now, nothing later than 12 weeks from now.
  • The student's identification number was stored within the appointment.

The WiscCal team quickly saw the value in a system like this, not just for Academic Advising, but for other Scheduling processes. A project to develop an enhancement was approved and development started immediately.

The Alpha

The first release of what would be the Scheduling Assistant was made available in time for priority enrollment in the Fall 2008 semester. Only Academic Advisors from the School of Nursing were allowed to register as Schedule Owners. The advising office directed these students to visit the site that hosted the Scheduling Assistant. There was no portlet at this time, we depended largely on the School of Nursing's ability to reach out to their students directly.

The alpha went relatively smoothly. The advisors sent a survey to the students that participated and it was received warmly.
The advisors themselves were pleased with this proof of concept release and were eager to expand.

The product didn't really have a name at this time, internally in the WiscCal team's subversion repository the project was named "scheduler-advisor."

The product was briefly shown at the 2008 Jasig Unconference in Madison.

The Beta

Development continued in response to feedback from the alpha, and in Spring of 2009 the beta release of the software was deployed and any Academic Advisor was invited to participate.

23 Advisors signed up, and 877 appointments were created during the Spring semester.

The product's first "name" started to materialize: "available." This stems from the idea that "while you may be 'free' at 2 am on a Sunday, you aren't 'available' for an appointment."

General Availability for WiscCal customers

The 1.0 release of the software came in Fall 2009. Any person eligible for the WiscCal service could register as a Schedule Owner.

177 Schedule Owners registered during that semester, and 4,498 appointments were created. Of that population, only 25% were Academic Advisors; however 92% of the appointments created were with those advisors.

Enhancement releases have been deployed in production during the Fall and Spring semesters since. Through the end of December 2011, over 45,000 total appointment have been created.


Spring 2011:

  • the Bedework developers at RPI contributed their time and expertise to assist in the development of CalDAV integration.
  • May Jasig Conference, Bedework integration announced

1.0 Released on September 21 2011.

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