Creating the MIT Academic Calendar

By Ri Romano, Associate Registrar

MIT Academic CalendarThe Registrar’s Office is responsible for the publication of the MIT Academic Calendar. Over the past year, we gave the calendar a much-needed facelift. The current version, as seen on the Registrar’s website, contains a HTML calendar, complete with calendar icons and links to Religious Holidays and Projected Key Dates. There is also a PDF version suitable for printing as well as an ICS file for downloading into your electronic calendar program. All of this is very well and good, but how is the calendar actually assembled? What exactly goes into it?

The calendar creation process begins with interpreting Faculty Rules and Regulations 2.11, 2.12, 2.53, and 2.54 for the upcoming academic year. This gives us the general outline of the calendar – start and end dates of the semesters, IAP, summer sessions, holidays, spring break, reading periods, exam periods, add and drop dates, and commencement. It also gives us rules regarding how many assignments may fall due at the end of term. To this framework we add deadlines concerning registration, degrees, theses, and grades. We also add information from other offices regarding orientation, physical education, career week, performance and degree meetings for CAP and GAP, English evaluation tests, family weekend, and campus preview weekend. Once all that is in place and has been checked, re-checked, and checked again, we are ready to publish the calendar in all of its various formats.

How are all of these formats generated? The answer may surprise you. The basis for all of them is actually nothing more than a simple Word file. “Academic_Calendar_Template.doc” is a skeletal representation of the calendar with bare bones information and a few formatting tags. The new dates are updated in the Word template and saved as a plain text file which is loaded into the MIT Registrar Calendar Document Conversion program. That program was developed and is hosted by Zayd Media, the same company responsible for developing the new Registrar website. Once the txt file is uploaded and the “Submit” button is clicked, links to all three - HTML, PDF, and ICS - formats pop onto the screen in under a minute. It’s nothing short of magic, really, particularly to those of us who once gazed in wonder at the IBM correcting selectric.

So, feel free to scroll through the HTML calendar with your favorite browser, or to print that PDF and thumb through it at your leisure, or to download that ICS into your electronic calendar program and share it with a friend. The new MIT Academic Calendar is more flexible and ready to serve than ever before.