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Step 1: Draft Course Inventory

Based on shape of discipline, legacy of the major, interests and capacities of instructor, interests and needs of students we sketch out a course inventory divided into required courses (R) and electives (E)

Intro Soc (R)
Cult Anth (R)
Methods 1 (R)
Methods 2 (R)
Theory (R)
Proseminar (R)
Senior Seminar (R)
Immigration (E)
Social Control (E)
PostColonial CS (E)
Native Amer (E)
Soc Hip Hop (E)
Medical (E)
Soc Oakland (E)
Math Modeling (E)
Linguistics (E)
Networks (E)
EverydayLife (E)
Communication (E)
SexGender (E)
RaceEth (E)
Soc Problems (E)
Education (E)
Ethnography (E)
Xcult Women (E)
Childhood (E)
Jane Eyre (E)

Step 2: Frequency, Level, and Length

Next we think through which courses we need/want to teach annually, which ones we need/want to teach on a two year rotation (making sure they always show up for two-year transfers) and which courses we can afford to do on a three year rotation.Service" courses for other programs are a consideration here too.

We also took a shot a labeling courses by sequential level - which ones might we want to pitch as entry level, which ones intermediate, and which one's advanced.

Finally, we consider which courses could be offered in a half-semester module. Usually this is for courses where there is pedagogical value in being exposed to the core ideas, the relation to other aspects of the discipline/field, and some of the substantive subtopics as contrasted with courses where a larger array of subparts must be "covered" if one is to say one has studied the topic.

Note that this last step is hard and in some cases we have to say "I'm pretty sure I could figure out how to do that well though it would take some work." There is an obvious tradeoff between number of areas a student learns something about and how much a student learns about each area. We think there's a value to breadth and that depth can be achieved by how one teaches not just how long a course lasts.

In anticipation of the need to deliver course title variety with limited full time staffing we try to identify more rather than fewer courses as candidates for being taught as half semester modules.

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At this stage, we don't worry about what will rotate with what, but we did aim to have the number of 3-year rotating full semester courses be a multiple of 3.

Step 3: Connect offerings with deployment of instructional FTE

Next we count up how much instructional FTE we need to field this list of courses. We start with 6 semester length requirements which we want to offer every year.

Next we count multiple sections. Intro enrollments are high enough (about 70 per year) to warrant 2 sections of each intro course.

We also have one service course we teach for the public policy graduate program.

Altogether this comes out to 9 semester length offerings per year. Thus, the required part of the curriculum requires about 2 FTE. What will it take to build the elective curriculum we started to imagine above? We start by assuming 3 FTE TT faculty at 5 semester length offerings per year so we have 6 "slots" to play with.

We propose to deploy these as follows:

1 slot for a 3 semester-length-courses in 3 year rotation (A & B & C)
2 slots for 4 semester courses on a 2 year rotation (D & E, F & G, H & I)
3 slots for 12 module length courses on a 2 year rotation (J & K, L & M, N & O, P & Q, R & S, T & U)

All told this yields 26 course titles to which 4 year students would have access (2 year transfers would see 25 titles).

Step 4: Build Four Year Schedule Framework

To keep things simple we gave our required courses short mnemonic names and we numbered electives S1, S2 and M1, M2, etc. based on whether they were semester or module length courses.

At this stage our major looks like this

Intro Soc + Cult Anth + Methods Mod 1 + Methods Mod 2 + Theory + Junior Seminar + Senior Seminar + ELECTIVES


which we abbreviate like this

INTRO1 + INTRO2 + REQ2A + REQ2B + REQ3 + JSem + SSem + ELECTIVES

Since these will be offered every year we put them into a four year course schedule first. We are assuming we need to offer two sections of our two intro courses.

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This requires us to use 9 of 15 course "slots" (we are counting under the old system for now) that our 3 FTE staffing provides. We also have one elective which we teach each year as a service course for the graduate public policy program so we add that to the schedule too.

Next we put our rotating courses into the schedule. First we have S1, S2, and S3 which are in a 3 year rotation. NOTE: we are placing these in fall or spring in anticipation of balancing instructors' schedules which comes at a later step. No need to worry about that at this stage.

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And then the two year rotation semester courses:

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And finally our 2 year rotation module offerings:

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Step 5: The Four Year Schedule

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Step 6: Staffing, Workloads, Etc.

The program has 6 required courses, all of which are taught each year. Intro courses are taught in two sections. One intro course is team taught by two professors, and one is taught as two sections by one professor. A junior and senior seminar are taught in rotation with the instructor who teaches the junior seminar in a spring semester also teaching the senior seminar the following fall. Each faculty member has a course taught in three year rotation that s/he teaches in the year s/he teaches neither the junior or senior seminar. We might think of this as "senior treat" advanced topic course.

The rotation below features 12 modular courses, M, (some of which could be joined together when they are adjacent) 8 semester courses, S. This layout takes into account 1 course offered as a service course annually for the PPOL graduate program. Each semester features 5 elective courses and 4 required courses. Except for S1, S2, and S3, all electives are on a two year rotation so transfer students would likely see all of them.

This layout would require each of us to rethink some of our semester courses into modules.

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Step 7: Building-in Exception Handling

Next steps would be to adjust FTE allocations to take into account exceptions we can anticipate.

Normal operating procedures cause bumps to collide with plans like these. These include sabbaticals, administrative assignments, unscheduled leaves, etc.

As a first cut at building in tolerance for these we compute the sabbatical expectation as 1 semester per 7 years per faculty member. This means that in a 4 year schedule with 3 TTT faculty we should budget for 2 semesters of replacement (or build the schedule around that many fewer FTE to deploy over time). In the first approximation we don't try to anticipate the exact timing but we do want to make sure the instructional budget - either the salary side or the deployable instructional FTE side - takes this into account when we design the schedule.

At this stage we might want to add "buffer FTE" (that is, budgeted adjunct slots) to allow for course experimentation - important to build this in rather than making innovation an exception. The amount of flexibility could be rationalized at the institution or division level. It might be linked to oscillations of student interest, programatic R&D, etc. Fractional flexibility could be used to encourage cross-department collaboration on fielding of courses. Etc.

Other Advantages

  1. a four year schedule would always allow all students enrolled at the college to anticipate and plan their educations
  2. a four year schedule would make the bi-annual ritual of staffing sheet submission much simpler since deans and department heads would be confirming and modifying rather than drafting from scratch
  3. divisional instructional budgets would be less unwieldy to construct, understand, and build plans around

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