The Australasian Syllabus Plus Reference Group (ASPRG) Conference is upon us once more. Staff on both sides of the equator are gearing up to ensure that their contribution is worthy of this excellent user-led event, says Richie Teh, Regional Manager ANZ.
And it is truly user-led: unlike Scientia’s EMEAA User Conference, which is organised by the Company (albeit with the generous support of a user steering committee), ASPRG is independently-organised; we are merely invited guests!
ASPRG started life as a peer-support network for Scientia software users based in Australia. Now in its 22nd year, the Group has grown from just a handful of universities to more than 95% of all universities in ANZ. Hosted by a different institution each year, its annual gathering shows that, even in the modern era of easy remote communication, nothing beats a physical get-together for sharing innovation and best practice with our solutions. It’s also an opportunity for fellow Timetablers to swap stories from the scheduling frontline – “a three-day therapy session,” according to a colleague!
This year, ASPRG is generously hosted by the University of Queensland (UQ) at its St Lucia Campus in Brisbane. A Scientia client for more than 5 years, UQ is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching institutions with over 51,000 students. Over three days, Scientia software users will get to hear insightful user presentations about how our solutions deliver measurable benefit ‘on the ground’ – interwoven with the latest company and product developments from the Scientia team. I’m really looking forward to the user presentations; hearing about the unique ways each institution uses our software drives innovation and progress within the Company.
On a personal level, I’m also excited about my session on Clocks – short for Classroom Occupancy System. Developed by our Dutch partners, Lone Rooftop, Clocks utilises their Position Intelligence Engine (PIE) to calculate the position of people inside a building, primarily using existing WiFi networks. It’s a huge leap forward in space management on campus. We’ve just had our first Clocks order in the UK and I’m sure clients in ANZ will be excited to hear about the myriad benefits of real-time space utilisation and powerful reporting.
With Syllabus+ Anywhere just around the corner, I’m sure much discussion will be focussed on the opportunities our new Cloud-based scheduling solution will bring. Flexible, scalable, performant and secure, Syllabus+ Anywhere is going to move timetabling from a necessary service to a valuable strategic resource in tertiary institutions. I’m thrilled that both Darren Woodward and Duncan Corbett from Scientia’s Product Management team are coming over to present the latest developments with the software. I hope this shows clients in APAC how committed we are to delivering and supporting a new solution which works for everyone. I hope to see you there!
The importance of student satisfaction has grown in line with tuition fees and competition from a global higher education marketplace. It’s always mattered, but in the era of big student debt and funding predicated on performance, it’s now a key strategic aim for most institutions. That’s why we chose it as the focus of our 2016 White Paper, and also why it became the theme for our 2017 EMEAA User Conference. How students feel about their institution is influenced by numerous factors: the quality of teaching; access to learning resources; and examination and assessment, to name but a few. Users of our software are particularly concerned with the impact good course organisation and management can have on student satisfaction.
Timetabling and Student Satisfaction
Timetabling is a niche part of academic administration, and our software is a niche product designed with and for that sector. With such specialist knowledge and implementations specific to their institution, Timetablers tend to change job relatively infrequently. That means we get many of the same people coming to Conference year after year, cementing the enduring relationships we have with our customers which go way beyond the usual provider-client transaction. It’s a partnership in every sense of the word. So the Wednesday morning of Conference is all about welcoming old friends – and making new ones – before we get down to business.
We kicked off after lunch with a high-level session on Syllabus+ Anywhere – our forthcoming Cloud-based scheduling solution. This was Darren Woodward‘s fourth EMEAA User Conference, but the first since he ‘moved to the Dark Side’, as his former colleagues from Auckland put it. Our poacher-turned-gamekeeper delivered a great session which looked at the features, benefits and roadmap for the solution.
It’s an incredibly exciting time for us and that came over in Darren’s presentation. He focussed on how Syllabus+ Anywhere moves timetabling from a required back office function to an embedded service within an institution, able to help with everything from change management to capacity planning in Estates. This new core solution will encompass much of the functionality currently covered by a number of our current products, not least data collection – the vital first piece in the scheduling puzzle.
Darren touched on some research which shows the connection between self-service and student satisfaction. Enabling students and staff to do everything from module selection to ad-hoc room and resource booking is proven to increase productivity, efficiency and satisfaction. The timetable is no longer something which is done to them, but done by them and for them. Solutions such as Resource Booker, Publish and Enterprise Activity Adjuster already deliver this.
Getting User Experience (UX) right is absolutely key with Syllabus+ Anywhere. To these ends, we have partnered with Isle Interactive who focus exclusively on UX and have an impressive and diverse roster of clients, including Cambridge Education Group and Muse.
Making a big place seem small: developing an ‘academic identity’
Next up was a keynote from Dr Ben Calvert, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience at the University of South Wales (USW). Ben’s insightful talk addressed the disconnect between academic pedagogies and processes, and asked: Are we all looking through the same lens? Ben suggested that student satisfaction could be improved by joining up the dots between academic planning and university administration – not least by considering the timetable earlier in the course design process; the space in which we learn can have a profound impact upon that learning, and yet it is rarely considered during the course design phase.
USW have used Trendence to turn student data into actionable insights. They discovered that many of their students struggled to find their place at university. They did not identify as ‘academic’ and therefore had low expectations of their university outcome and future prospects. USW implemented some changes to help them develop their ‘academic identity’ and make a big place – the university campus – seem smaller and less daunting. One major change was to reduce the number of course modules. Reducing the academic complexity meant they weren’t so overwhelmed by choice; it also gave them a more focussed programme of study, which helped to develop their academic identity. The relevancy for our delegates was that a reduction in course modules makes it easier to create a good quality, coherent timetable.
Self-service: a driver for stakeholder satisfaction
The excellent session on Enterprise Activity Adjuster (EAA), by Hull University’s Helen Kirby-Hawkins, took staff satisfaction as its starting point. Hull had an interesting problem: if its tutors were unsatisfied with their scheduled classroom, they would simply book themselves an alternative using our Web Room Booking software – without cancelling the scheduled room! This led to a chronic waste and shortage of space. Hull’s solution was to implement EAA, enabling staff to make changes to the timetable themselves.
Initially, 30 tutors were given access and the ability to change any element of the scheduled session: day, time, room, teaching staff. Uptake was great and feedback from staff was very positive: they felt empowered and valued for having control of their timetable beyond the data collection period – some months before the course delivery.
But what effect did changes to the published timetable have on student satisfaction? Attendance data and feedback showed that they didn’t mind about room or staff changes, even at relatively short notice. In fact, students were frequently happy that their tutor had moved the session to a ‘better’ room. What they did mind were changes to the scheduled day and time – particularly if a lecture was being moved forward to earlier in the day. With this insight, Helen and her team were able to limit the changes staff could make in EAA.
Questions from the floor centered on notification of frequent timetable changes. Helen acknowledged that the number of changes had increased from 1,800 to 2,500 a year since EAA was rolled out. Even a few years ago, promptly notifying students of this many changes would have been impossible. But these days, she said, students tend to live week to week, constantly checking their academic calendar – updated from Syllabus+ throughout the day – on their mobile device or computer. So despite the frequency of changes, students judged the timetable to be better overall.
Syllabus+ Anywhere: ambitious, agile, incremental
The final plenary of the day was a more technical look at Syllabus+ Anywhere – the stuff ‘under the hood’ – and how Scientia is gearing up to meet the challenges and opportunities it brings. It’s a big and ambitious project, but thanks to a high-level of customer engagement and an Agile approach to development, we know we’re getting it right as we go. There won’t be an Apple-style ‘big reveal’, as customers are so involved with the development process. Despite that, we hope there will be a few pleasant surprises once they start using it later this year.
The day ended with dinner, the forging of new friendships, and the now-famous Dinesh Vaswani Memorial Quiz, named after a former Scientia colleague. This year, we asked those present to donate their spare change in support of Jimmy’s Cambridge, a local homelessness charity. Attendees generously gave £285, which Scientia has matched, meaning that Jimmy’s will receive £570 in total. Heartfelt thanks to everyone for their contribution.
More insights and photos from our 2017 EMEAA User Conference soon!
The 2017 Scientia User Conference is rapidly approaching and tickets are selling fast. If your finger’s still hovering over the ‘book’ button, here are our Top 10 reasons to come:
It’s the largest annual gathering of Scientia software users anywhere in the world
Network with around 200 colleagues from across the EMEAA region involved with timetabling and resource optimisation. You are guaranteed to come away with valuable information and insights which you won’t get anywhere else.
Learn about the latest developments in our next-generation Cloud scheduling solution
The 2017 Conference marks one year since our announcement that we will deliver a new, Cloud-based solution for planning and scheduling. We’ll be sharing our progress to date, including outcomes from our recent work with customers that is helping us to target our development effort effectively.
20+ user-led presentations
There’s no better way to learn about the many and innovative ways our software can be used than from users themselves. That’s why we dedicate as much of the Conference as possible to user presentations. Some are presentations, some are participative workshops, but all will add value to your own use of our solutions.
Scientia product updates
Find out what our products can do right now – and what’s coming up in future releases – direct from our Product Managers. We will be updating many of our product ‘features and benefits’ brochures and previewing them at the Conference.
Free time with our Consultants
Even in a highly-connected world, there is still nothing like being face to face with colleagues for Getting Stuff Done. As a customer, you will be used to seeing your Account Manager regularly, but the opportunity to grab some free time with our experienced Consultants is invaluable.
Make your voice heard
As a Company, we are always keen to hear from our customers – especially now that our exciting new development work is underway. The User Conference is a further opportunity for you to tell us what you want from our forthcoming solution. Your comments in open sessions as well as conversations directly with Product Managers all feed in to the development process. This year’s Conference will include a new feature: a formal opportunity for you to record the task you would most like to see improved, as well as your ideas on the best way to do that.
Keynote addresses by leading industry experts
Not one, not two but three keynotes which touch on the theme of student satisfaction, its importance, and the role that intelligent scheduling can play in improving it. See the session overviews at conference.scientia.com.
Meet Scientia’s technology partners
We’ve always believed we can deliver more for our customers by working with others to develop our offer. Many of you will know of Scope4mation, originators of our Connect integration tool. They will be back this year alongside Lone Rooftop, our newest partners, whose ‘building intelligence’ solutions spell and end to under-utilised space and unnecessary build projects.
The famous Scientia hospitality!
We ease you into the conference on Wednesday with lunch and the opportunity to catch up with colleagues old and new. Following the afternoon sessions, you’ll be rewarded with a great informal supper and our now-famous (or infamous) quiz! From the sublime to the ridiculous, quizmaster Mark Everitt will confound and surprise you with a range of questions to test even the most seasoned pub-quizzer. Points mean prizes, so choose your table carefully!
The Thursday of Conference is always the biggie: a full-on day of keynotes, elective sessions and networking. So the evening is all about fun! We start with a pre-dinner drinks reception followed by a formal table-service dinner, and end up in the adjoining bar which will be transformed into our very own arcade with driving games, table football and numerous other entertainments.
We believe that the Scientia User Conference presents amazing value for money. Two full days and nights of professional development, networking, consultancy, accommodation, food and entertainment for a little over £500.
On 2 June 2016, thousands of cyclists, walkers and runners will participate in the annual Alpe d’HuZes event – a one-day challenge to climb the legendary Alpe d’Huez to raise money for the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF). Famous for both winter sports and as a gruelling mountain stage on the Tour de France, climbing the route just once would be impressive. But some participants take the motto ‘giving up is not an option’ very seriously, making the climb up to six times during the event!
Scientia has proudly sponsored a team of cyclists from customer Radboud UMC for the past few years. We caught up with Alwin Scharstuhl, Head of Educational Coordination, to talk about the event. Q&A in both Dutch and English.
Waarom doe je mee met dit evenement?
Ledereen komt in zijn leven direct of indirect in aanraking met deze ziekte en de ingrijpende en verschrikkelijke gevolgen die de ziekte met zich meedraagt. Ik ben er van overtuigd, mede door mijn 15-jarige ervaring uit mijn vorige carrière als medisch onderzoeker, dat met genoeg middelen we grote stappen kunnen zetten in de behandeling en genezing van deze ziekte.
Why do you do this event?
Everyone comes directly or indirectly in contact with this disease at some point in their life and experiences its awful consequences. I am convinced, partly due to my 15 years of experience from my previous career as a medical researcher, that with enough resources we can make great strides in the treatment and cure of this disease.
Hoeveel hoop je in te zamelen?
Per persoon is het streven €2500 in te zamelen. In totaal hopen we met alle deelnemers vanuit het Radboudumc meer dan €55.000 op te halen. Als geheel heeft de Alpe d’HuZes actie vorig jaar in totaal 12 miljoen opgehaald. Sinds de eerste editie in 2006 is al 130 miljoen opgehaald. Ik wil, mede namens ons gehele team, Scientia hartelijk bedanken voor hun uiterst positieve reactie op mijn verzoek tot een bijdrage in de sponsoring voor Alpe d’HuZes!
How much do you hope to raise?
Each person on the team is aiming to raise € 2,500. We hope all the participants from Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre will raise more than €55,000 combined. As a whole the Alpe d’HuZes challenge last year raised a total of €12 million. Since the first event in 2006, it has raised €130 million! On behalf of our entire team I would like to thank Scientia for their extremely positive response to my request for a contribution to the sponsorship of Alpe d’HuZes!
Hoe verloopt de training tot dusver?
De teller van het aantal trainingskilometers dit jaar staat momenteel op 1331 kilometer wat gelijk staat aan 58 uur fietsen. Komend weekend staat een trainingsrit van 170 kilometer op het programma om goed voorbereid te zijn op de 200 km en 2700 hoogtemeters van de wielerklassieker Amstel Gold Race op 16 april a.s..
Op de deadline van 2 juni is het streven om zo’n 3500 trainingskilometers in de benen te hebben met zo’n 120 uur fietstijd en 22.000 hoogtemeters kilometer.
How’s the training going?
The number of training kilometers this year stands at 1331 so far, which equates to 58 hours of cycling. Next weekend we have a 170 kilometer training ride to be well prepared for the 200km and 2700 vertical meters of the cycling classic Amstel Gold Race on April 16. The aim is to have around 3,500 training kilometers in the legs with some 120 hours of riding time and 22,000 kilometers of altitude by 2 June!
Help Alwin and colleagues to win in the battle against cancer. Sponsor him here.
If you schedule it, they will come. Timetablers assemble for our biggest international User Conference yet.
More than 200 Scientia software users descended on the Radisson Blu Hotel at Stansted Airport, UK for the annual EMEAA User Conference last week. Running since 1998, this was a record year with more institutions, delegates and user-led presentations than ever before. This year’s theme was Managing Complex Resources in a Competitive World – an opportunity to explore how Scientia’s scheduling solutions are making timetabling and resource management easier for hundreds of institutions worldwide.
We welcomed people from 13 nations, making this a truly international Conference. Timetablers from the University of British Columbia – relatively new customers and first-timers at Conference – were our furthest-travelled regional customers; but Darren Woodward, Exam & Timetable Services Manager at the University of Auckland, took the long-haul crown – a welcome representative from our APAC region, and a voice of authority on centralised timetabling at large tertiary institutions.
It’s called the User Conference for a reason: it’s all about the users. That might sound trite, but if we did nothing more than put the users of our products in a room together once a year, there would still be a whole heap of positive outcomes. Needless to say we do a fair bit more than that, but the point stands: the opportunity for our customers to talk and learn from each other is paramount; the Conference is primarily about timetablers inspiring one another and sharing good practice.
To facilitate this networking, we have long breaks – and lots of them: 40 minutes between sessions in the morning and afternoon; an hour-and-a-half for lunch; and down-time before and after dinner for our customers, technology partners and Scientia staff to simply connect. We always have available drop-in spaces for people to use as they need; and where we know customers are facing similar issues, we introduce them. One customer has suggested we could further improve knowledge transfer by inviting questions beforehand, leading to themed discussion groups to be held during the breaks. Certainly something to consider for next year.
Amongst all this frivolous socialising, our Steering Committee somehow managed to shoehorn in 19 user-led presentations, 12 Scientia product-focussed sessions and a Keynote from Mark Stewart, Microsoft’s Education Business Partnership Lead. Titled Embracing Education Trends with a Growth Mindset, Mark’s talk broadened out the Conference theme by looking at the trends which are likely to affect and influence us over the coming years, both as timetablers and software developers. A video of that presentation will be available soon. Our relationship with Microsoft is already deeply embedded, and we look forward to working with them ever more closely as we develop our Cloud-based scheduling solutions.
With such a wide range of user presentations it wouldn’t be fair (or possible) to highlight the ‘best’. By numbers, though, the most popular user-led sessions were:
Avoiding War in the Workplace – Paul Brierley, Uni of Manchester
Say That Again, I Dare You! – Scott Rosie, Uni of Edinburgh
What Constitutes a Good Timetable? – Joanne Mitchell, Queen’s University Belfast
Exam Scheduler 3 Implementation at the University of Southampton – Jackie Lupton
Fully Scheduled Nursing Timetables: Post-Transplant Pain Management – Paul Sweetman, City University
That the two most popular sessions were about dealing with the difficulties of being a university timetabler says a lot about what delegates value about the Conference: it’s a place to air frustrations and, hopefully, find new ways to deal with the inherent complexities of scheduling at large institutions.
Suffice it to say that no-one is more impressed than us by the innovative ways our scheduling solutions are used. You can see the full programme on our Conference site, and Scientia customers can now access all the presenters’ slide decks through our User Forum. Once again, our most sincere thanks to the institutions and presenters whose sessions make the Conference what it is.
The User Conference isn’t just for existing customers: it is a great opportunity for institutions who might be considering implementing Scientia’s timetabling and resource management solutions to find out more about our products and services, and hear first-hand from users about how it has helped them to better manage their time and space. Tatjana Duskevic is Timetabling Services Manager at the Royal College of Arts (RCA). The College is currently considering automating its timetabling and resource-management, and Tatjana – a former user and ardent fan of Scientia’s solutions – had come along to learn about recent product developments. Tatjana said:
“I truly believe that Scientia makes the best timetabling software on the planet. I say this having also used CMIS, SITS, and Cubia (a bespoke solution create for Greenwich School of Management – now a Scientia customer) over the last 11 years at different HE institutions in London. I can honestly say that none can match Scientia’s products for stability, flexibility and usability.”
“Scientia’s core Syllabus Plus scheduling engine is mature and well-supported, which is reassuring for institutions looking for a timetabling solution; but it was refreshing to hear in the Roadmap presentation that the next-gen scheduling engine – already in development – will be a Cloud-based product. It was extremely worthwhile coming here to see how Scientia is progressing and to find out how other users apply the software at their institutions.”
Of course, the software itself is only half of the story. Another benefit of coming to the Scientia User Conference is the opportunity to have face-to-face support or product demonstrations in the Demo Room. Natalie Bruce, Support Team Leader, said:
“From a Support perspective, Conference is a key opportunity for the whole Team to put faces to names. We might speak to a customer hundreds of times over the life of a contract, so it’s important for us to know who we’re talking to. Having the chance to unpick issues with people face-to-face in the Demonstration Area was also highly rewarding.”
Were you there? Share your thoughts – email us: firstname.lastname@example.org; we are accepting completed Feedback Forms until the end of April. We are always looking for ways to improve the Conference. If you think you could make a difference, join our 2017 Conference Steering Committee!
Click the picture below to see our photos from the event. Until next year…