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Research Staff & Volunteer Scheduling: UIC School of Public Health

The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) School of Public Health is an internationally acclaimed research institution. The Epidemiology and Biostatistics Division has a large staff including 32 associate, assistant and full professors, and many more staff and graduate students. Like many research organizations in the healthcare field, the department coordinates many types of research projects on a continuous basis.

The Challenge

UIC Cheers ProgramEven for a division the size of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the CHEERS project (Chicago Health, Environmental Exposure, and Recreation Study) was a large undertaking. The CHEERS contract was awarded by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to study water quality in the greater Chicago metropolitan area.

The project required 60 interviewers, 15 water samplers, and 5 managers collecting data around Chicago from May through October 2008.

“Both in terms of the condensed timeframe and people-intensive nature of gathering the data, it was a very large undertaking for us” said CHEERS coordinator Sara Wuellner, a UIC graduate student. “We were trying to use a shared Google calendar for people to indicate preferred dates, and then I would email them one at a time for assigned shifts. It was not a fair system and it was incredibly time-intensive for me. No one was happy.”

Wuellner searched for an online scheduling system that could provide:

  • An always up-to-date view of the schedule that all participants could access and confirm shifts themselves at desired days and times
  • An easy-to-use system, because her interviewers — hourly workers from throughout the community — had a broad range of computer literacy

Shiftboard University Scheduling Application

Wuellner ultimately chose Shiftboard, a hosted software system that provides round-the-clock scheduling and communications for the UIC CHEERS project.

uic - Month View
Views:  Month View  Week View  Day View

Branded with the CHEERS look and feel, the system includes:

  • Access to scheduling 24x7, from any web browser
  • Color-coded schedule views for upcoming shifts
  • Worker’s contact information and the location of the shift included with each assignment

“Considering number of workers and range of computer experience, it was very easy to get them up and going,” Wuellner said. She indicated that 99% of posted shifts are now proactively chosen by her paid interviewers and water samplers. She typically posts shifts for the next month about three weeks ahead of time.

“I post Friday shifts and they are 50% filled before I can get Saturday posted. Some of my workers must be in front of their computers 20 hours per day. They love that the schedules are posted in advance,” she said. “Shiftboard definitely does help with morale. The workers feel they have some control over when they are working instead of us telling them where and when to work.”