Category Archives: Students

Image representing difference and inclusion

Inclusion in Higher Education

Inclusion (noun): the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.

The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of race, gender, disability, medical or other need. It is about giving equal access and opportunities and getting rid of discrimination and intolerance – and removal of barriers.

Universities are rightly doing all they can to both welcome and accommodate diversity within their student cohort. Last week, Warwick held a conference to progress its decision to introduce gender-neutral toilets in an effort to be more inclusive for students who identify as trans or non-binary (describes any gender identity which does not fit the male and female binary).

It was interesting to see the Space Management and Timetabling Team mentioned in the piece, acknowledging the wide-ranging impact changes like this have on a institution and its policies. We introduced ‘non-binary’ and ‘prefer not to say’ options in Exam Scheduler (ES) last year. Looking forward, Syllabus+ Anywhere will have options for default and configurable genders.

By removing barriers to access, participation and achievement, the average UK university now has more than 500 students who need extra provision (NEP). Exam Scheduler has had good NEP students support from version 3.0, released in 2011. The Exams Management System (EMS) NEP module moves things forward significantly. It is completely configurable in terms of how it can be set up to represent conditions and the effect on how the student is scheduled. It can also be adapted over time to take into account changing understanding of illnesses, legislation changes or temporary conditions.

A growing number of our clients are introducing lecture capture video systems in classrooms. When linked with our core timetabling solution, these systems detect scheduled teaching sessions in the timetable and automatically record them.  If the recorded event is linked to a course, it will be automatically made available to students registered on that course. There are myriad benefits to recording lectures for students to watch again. Most importantly, it increases accessibility and inclusivity for students who may be unable to take notes or physically attend the class.

The Exams Network Conference (ENC) last year highlighted the growth in alternative provision requests for those with mental health issues, not physical conditions. It will be interesting to see how the sector responds to give all students equality of opportunity. We’re running a free workshop on EMS on Tuesday 5 September, 10-4, for anyone at this year’s ENC in Tasmania.

We’d like to hear examples of inclusive practice at your institution. Email them to info@scientia.com.

Integrating university timetables with lecture video capture systems

More and more academic institutions are implementing lecture video capture systems.  Just as we now enjoy TV and films ‘on demand’ from the likes of the BBC’s iPlayer or Netflix, so universities have come to recognise the myriad benefits of a ‘watch again’ service for teaching and learning.

Far from being an excuse to bunk off lectures, committing taught sessions to video enables students to be more present during the class, listening and interacting instead of busily writing notes – two-dimensional notes which cannot hope to convey a complex topic as fully or meaningfully as a start-to-finish recording.  Importantly, recorded lectures can also increase accessibility and inclusivity for students who may be unable to take notes or physically attend the class.

Lecture video capture is yet another string in the bow for institutions which put the student experience at the top of the list.  Access to flexible learning resources means students can learn at their own pace and review sessions throughout the year – particularly useful when revising for exams.  Videos are also a vital component of distance learning courses, enabling those who have chosen self-directed study to get a sense of the classroom experience, and reduce the need for tutors to produce additional materials for this type of student.

There are dozens of lecture video capture systems available to suit any institution’s size and budget.  These range from a camera on a tripod in a classroom, manually operated by a tutor or technician, to integrated multi-source systems which capture the tutor’s delivery, slideshows, smartboard content, document annotations and a range of other sources, synchronising them into a finished video.

Example of Panopto lecture video capture systemScientia has recently completed another successful link between Enterprise Foundation, our core timetabling solution, and a lecture video capture system – this time with Panopto (branded as ReCap) at Exeter University in the UK.  As with all our video capture integrations, Panopto detects scheduled ‘events’ (usually taught sessions) from Enterprise and automatically records them – no action needed from a tutor, no chance of someone forgetting to press ‘record’.  If the ‘event’ is linked to a course, it will be automatically made available to students registered on that course.  Simple.

The most compelling reason for installing an integrated lecture capture system is, of course, improved learning outcomes.  A pilot at the University of Manchester – where we have linked Enterprise to the Opencast Video Solution – found that examination results improved following its implementation.  It also upheld what other studies have shown: that lecture attendance is not correlated with the use of lecture capture.

Integrating academic scheduling with lecture video capture is a fast-growing area for Scientia.  Earlier in 2016 we linked Enterprise to Echo360 – an industry ‘big beast’ – at the University of Melbourne in Australia.  With experience of integrating our timetabling software with both open source and turnkey video capture solutions, this is a great time for our clients to explore the options available to them.

Read about Newcastle University’s lecture capture journey on Panopto’s blog.

Student satisfaction: its worth more than you think

Like it or not, tertiary education is becoming increasingly commodified.  Tuition fees have become more common as the higher education sector has grown in size and the funding required to sustain it has increased.  Some governments have decided that charging tuition fees is the only way to ease the financial pressure on the treasury (and to support students from less affluent backgrounds).  Advocates of tuition fees state this as a positive development: students buy a stake in their education and are accorded ’consumer’ status, with all the rights that brings.  Opponents have been fighting the commodification of education for years, with a recent study suggesting that students who see themselves as consumers, rather than learners, get lower grades.

Whatever your opinion, one thing’s for sure: with the average annual cost to the student reaching as much as £27,000, it’s no wonder that students’ expectations of their institutions are rising.  As an education provider, how do you know if you’re succeeding in meeting your students’ needs and giving them good value for money?  You ask them!  Or rather, the national independent funding body for higher education asks them.

SK123_RGB_LOGO_OCWIn the Netherlands, that body is Studiekeuze123 – a collaboration of the Ministry of Education, students and higher education institutions.  Its stated aim is to offer “independent, comprehensive and reliable information about all accredited programs at colleges and universities in [the] Netherlands.”  Its website – www.studiekeuze123.nl – is a one-stop shop for prospective students, helping them to select the right institution based on a huge amount of information – much of it collected from existing students via its annual survey, the Nationale Studente Enquête (NSE).  The NSE is a wide-ranging survey on the various aspects of the tertiary learning experience: the programme’s curriculum, acquired skills, career preparation, lecturers, information provided by the programme, study facilities, assessment, study workload, student guidance and, of course, timetables.

Hogeschool Zeeland
Hogeschool Zeeland, a Scientia client, is among the best in the Netherlands for the sixth year running

For the prospective student, there are few more credible sources of information than the lived experiences of existing students.  Performing well in the NSE has become central to a Dutch university’s appeal, with many using its outcomes as part of their marketing strategy – comparing themselves favourably with their academic rivals or boasting about improvements on the previous year’s scores.  Most importantly, the NSE is a key feedback tool for Dutch universities, enabling them to improve the academic experience for their current and future students.  And giving students the best experience possible is certainly in their interest: research shows that student satisfaction affects the entire student lifecycle, from retention to alumni giving.

Helping institutions to achieve their strategic goals is one of Scientia’s stated aims.  Two of the NSE questions are specifically about timetabling, and two about space management:

  • Is your timetable published on time?
  • Are timetable changes published on time?
  • Is there suitable study space?
  • Is there available work space?

So we had cause to celebrate when we analysed the NSE results this year:

  • on average, Dutch institutions which use our timetabling and resource management solutions equal or beat the national average in the categories related to timetabling and space management.
  • In the case of the Universities we support (as opposed to Hogeschools), they beat the averages significantly – by around half a point in most categories.
  • More compelling still is the difference between the average ‘non-Scientia’ institutions and those using our solutions: almost a full point in most cases, particularly on questions around timetabling.
Timetable published on time Timetable changes published on time Suitable study space Available work space
National Avarage 2.8 2.5 2.9 2.5
Scientia Uni Average 3.3 3.0 3.4 2.8
Scientia Hogeschools Average 2.8 2.6 3.0 2.6
Non Scientia 2.5 2.2 2.6 2.8

The take-home point here is simple: students at Dutch institutions which use our Enterprise Foundation timetabling suite are happier with their timetables than those which don’t.  Furthermore, those institutions are more able to make the right kind of study space available to their students.  This is the bit where we sit back and rest on our laurels, right?  Wrong.  We can do better.  You can do better.

We have a range of student-focussed solutions which could help you to better serve your future alumni (you know, the ones who in the US give almost $11bn a year to their former colleges): if you’re already using Enterprise Foundation for your timetabling, Publish enables you to send personalised timetables direct to your students’ phone, tablet or PC; Student Allocator empowers students to make choices of activities, modules and tutorials for themselves through any web browser; and you don’t even need to have Enterprise Foundation to implement our Resource Booker solution, which enables students and staff to make and manage their own room and resource bookings…

Congratulations to our Dutch clients for an outstanding performance in this year’s NSE.  Here’s to continuous improvement, no matter where you fall in the rankings.