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Allocation preferences

Allocation preferences control the outcome of allocating students to activities.

Figure 25: The Allocation Preference Editor window

Allocation order is a choice between two options; you must choose one.

For all other options, you state your preference as a point on a sliding scale. To indicate that you place greater importance on a particular preference, give it a more extreme setting. If you have set multiple preferences, Importance is taken into account during allocation.

Allocation order

You can allocate by size or allocate alphabetically.

If you allocate by size then students on the largest pathways (in other words, the most popular module combinations) are allocated first. Consequently, if the planned number and size of activities is not sufficient to accommodate all the students, the students that have the least popular module combinations remain unallocated.

If you allocate alphabetically then students are ordered alphabetically before allocation begins. This means that students on less popular pathways are as likely to be allocated as those on the most popular pathways. Also, when you choose to clump the allocation (see below), students that have the same or similar name are grouped in the same activities.

Spread allocation or clump allocation

When there are more than enough spaces planned for all the students being allocated (for example, 90 students to be allocated across 10 tutorials, each with space for 10 students), you can spread or clump the allocation.

Spreading tends to allocate students evenly across all the available activities. In the example case mentioned above, that would result in each of the tutorials having 9 students and 1 available space.

Clumping tends to allocate students to the same activity until it is full before taking up spaces on another activity. In the example case that would result in 9 tutorials with 10 students in each and an empty tutorial.

Mix or group by choice

Grouping by choice tends to keep students that have previously been allocated to the same activities together for future allocations. This does not guarantee that students will always be allocated together, because the activities of one module might be smaller than those of another; the 20 students allocated to a seminar session for Module A cannot all be allocated to the practical session of Module B, if the practical session can accommodate only 15 students.

Choosing to mix by choice tends to have the reverse effect.

Note: It is sometimes suggested that mixing students results in each student having a wider circle of friends, because they will meet more of their fellow students on a regular basis. However, it could be argued that allocating students together regularly results in each student having a small group of peers that they get to know really well and that provide them with improved peer group support. From a purely pragmatic point of view, note that grouping students makes scheduling easier, because it creates fewer requirements to keep particular sets of activities clash-free.

Mix or group by gender

If the gender of students is specified, then this can be used to influence allocation. If you mix by gender then the allocation process tends to achieve a gender balance at the activity level that is similar to that at the programme level. For example, if 70% of students on the programme are male then 70% of the students in each activity will be male.

If you group by gender then the allocation process tends to keep the genders separate whenever allocating across multiple activities.

Combining preferences

You can set a preference on more than one of the sliding scales in the Allocation Preference Editor window. Each preference influences allocation, because when Enterprise Course Planner must choose an activity to allocate a student to, each element of the score that an activity receives is weighted according to your preferences. Each element of the score corresponds to the spread or clump, and mix, criteria.

For example, when considering how to allocate a student who must attend 1 of 10 tutorials, each tutorial is given 3 separate scores.

The first score indicates how well spreading or clumping would be achieved by allocating the student to this activity. If you have chosen to clump allocation then activities that have more students already allocated (but are not full) will score highly. If you have chosen to spread allocations, activities that are empty or have few students already allocated will score highly.

The second score indicates how well mixing or grouping by choice would be achieved. If the activity that Enterprise Course Planner is calculating a score for is allocated students who share other activities with the student currently being allocated, the activity will score highly if grouping, but will have a low score if mixing.

The third score indicates how well mixing or grouping by gender would be achieved. An activity whose students who are all of the same gender as the student currently being allocated will score highly if grouping, but will have a low score if mixing.

Each of these scoring factors is weighted according to the preference indicated on the sliding scale, then the scores are totalled. The student is allocated to the highest scoring activity.