Education today often involves multiple educational partnerships. These partners in education help enrich learning and expand on what students receive in the classroom. But making it all happen isn’t easy. To bring partner offerings to the students, education program coordinators need to consider teachers’ schedule needs and other factors of school scheduling. Then they slot in the presentations, hands-on learning, field trips, and special activities. Educational partners and school districts need a reliable tool for scheduling programs and coordinating without adding more to their workload.
We spoke with Janaira Quigley, Executive Director at Ocean Connectors and educational consultant. Skilled at building complex systems for better communication and operational efficiency, Janaira has been working with schools to build a program scheduling system. Here’s what she shared with us about using Teamup to coordinate education partners with schools and teachers.
A system for scheduling education partners
There are three main areas to consider when using Teamup as a system for scheduling educational partner programs in schools:
- Creating a calendar structure that serves all stakeholders.
- Optimizing the calendar for how it will be used.
- Setting up customized access for all stakeholders.
Let’s take a look at each one.
Creating a structure that serves all stakeholders
Each scenario involving schools and educational partners will be a little different. However, the important commonality is that many stakeholders are involved. It’s important to work with the different groups and individuals as you start building a calendar structure.
Consider all the stakeholders
To start building out the framework for a scheduling system, start with a thorough understanding of the stakeholders. What are their needs? What are their expectations and restrictions? And what information do they need in a system for scheduling programs with educational partners?
There are two basic stakeholder groups: the school staff and the educational partners. Scheduling a program means finding availability for the relevant individuals from the school group and the partner group. So these two groups both need to have scheduling space where their events can be added to the calendar.
“I started by creating a folder for our education partnership programs with a calendar for each program. Then I added a folder for each school with a calendar for each teacher within the school. Once that was done, I could start setting up individualized views, or access, for each stakeholder.”
Create and organize stakeholder sub-calendars
Janaira set the calendar up with stakeholder groups organized in folders:
- Educational Partners folder: Each partner organization has its own sub-calendar within this folder. Any scheduled events involving a partner organization will be on their calendar. Scheduling coordinators can easily toggle sub-calendars to see different scheduling views, such as all programs and events for a specific partner organization, or all programs scheduled for any organization over a certain time period.
- School folders: Each school has their own folder, with an individual sub-calendar for each teacher within the respective folder. This structure makes it easy to set up customized access (more details below) and to toggle calendars or entire folders to focus on one classroom or one school at a time.
Create scheduling reference sub-calendars
This structure covers all the stakeholders, but there’s a third consideration: schedule restrictions. Educational partner programs need to take the bell schedule of all the schools into consideration. School staff don’t need a reference for their own bell schedules, however. So Janaira set up a third folder, which she makes visible only to the relevant stakeholders (the educational partners):
- Schedule Restrictions folder: This folder contains the bell schedules of all schools in the district, so partner program coordinators can reference them. This helps them find the best slots for program activities and avoid conflicts with school schedules.
Optimizing the calendar for how it will be used
With the basic structure in place, you can now consider what else needs to be captured, added, or tweaked to make the scheduling system as useful as possible. To optimize well, Janaira stressed the importance of taking time to really understand how the stakeholders will be viewing and using the calendar. Even though there are only two main stakeholder groups, within each group there are individuals with different needs, preferences, expectations, and limits.
Understand different uses
Janaira has put significant effort into understanding how each person involved will be viewing and using this system, and what will make it work best for them. It’s an ongoing effort that starts by considering the individuals within the larger stakeholder groups:
- School staff include teachers, administrators, schedulers, and supervisors for each school in the district.
- Educational partners include the scheduling admin team (Janaira and her team), schedule coordinators and staff members for each organization.
- Other stakeholders for specific activities and programs may include facility managers, transportation supervisors, drivers, assistants, volunteers, parents, and so on.
Examine needs and preferences
With this many stakeholders, there is a lot to consider. The first level of consideration is need: What information is needed by each person to succeed in their role? The answer to this question determines how to customize each person’s access. The next level of consideration is preference: How can the system become as intuitive and user-friendly as possible for each person?
Handle multiple dimensions
For example, to focus on certain scheduling data, some people may prefer filtering while others find toggling intuitive. To make the system as accommodating as possible, Janaira added multiple custom fields. These fields create some data duplication, but they allow individual stakeholders to see what they each need to see while eliminating unnecessary noise.
“The event type field is helpful because different activities require different planning. For a field trip, school admins need to plan transportation. We also added a custom field for the teachers’ names for each program activity. This way, education program coordinators can see which teachers they’re working with in their own view, since they don’t see the teacher’s sub-calendars.”
As shown above, typical scheduled event will have multiple dimensions which include some or all of the following:
- Educational partner organization
- Specific program
- Grade level
- Event type
- Lesson type
- Transportation needs
- Supplies or resource needs
- Limits or guidelines
Capture the details
Janaira set up custom fields to capture all these dimensions. Stakeholders can filter by keywords or by these fields to see what they need to see. For example, if a superintendent wants to see what’s going on with 3rd grade in November, it’s easy to do.
Not all the fields are relevant for all the events: for example, field trips require transportation, but in-class activities don’t. But some fields are relevant for any event, so they’re required.
“Some of these custom fields are required so we don’t forget to include the important information. Some fields are set to show in event titles so it’s easy to scan and see what’s happening. We use the event description to put in notes about what each program includes for the teachers. And we’ll upload any attachments so they have everything needed right there.”
Setting up customized access for all stakeholders
Customized calendar access is what makes the whole system work for each stakeholder. For successful customization, consider
- What each stakeholder needs to see, and
- What each stakeholder does NOT need to see.
Include the signal
Education partners only need to see the programs they have scheduled, for their own organizations. They don’t need to see all the information about other partner organizations. So each partner organization has access to see their own sub-calendar only. The custom fields hold all the information they need for each scheduled event.
Meanwhile, each school is given an access link which includes all the school sub-calendars. Each teacher also has calendar access that shows just their own sub-calendar. This way, admins or superintendents can get an overview of what’s happening across the whole school. Teachers can focus on their own classrooms.
Reduce the noise
With this much scheduling information, what you leave out is just as important as what you leave in. Unnecessary data is just noise. Noise is distracting and unhelpful. For example, while the bell schedules are important for the scheduling admin team, they’re unhelpful noise for the teachers and school coordinators. With customized access, the bell schedules are completely invisible for school staff.
Scheduling for schools and partners in education
This is an ongoing effort and Janaira continues to study and tweak to make the system work for each stakeholder. At present, their roll-out includes one district with plans to ramp up after a few more months of testing and perfecting. So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I love platforms that intuitively make sense like Teamup. I could poke around and figure out what I was doing, and we’re tweaking as we go to make it work. Teachers like being able to look at the whole month ahead and see what’s coming up. They can get a bird’s eye view and plan their weeks knowing what’s scheduled with different programs and activities. If we can make teacher’s lives easier right now, we need to do it. Teamup has been a wonderful partner in helping us set this system up, being responsive and supporting each step along the way.”
Many thanks to Janaira for sharing your story with us. We’re glad to be part of making things easier for schools, teachers, education program coordinators and partners.
Interested in trying Teamup for your own partner program or school district? Start exploring with one of our live demo calendars.