The Importance of Timetabling for Student Satisfaction

Scientia’s analysis of ten years of the UK National Student Survey uncovers four key areas that relate to the success of universities.

Scientia White Paper 2016As we close the door on 2016 and our clients and their students shut down for Christmas, a time of reflection begins.  In our case, this reflection looks back a bit further – ten years, in fact – as we aim to gain insight into the successes and failures of institutions through our analysis of UK National Student Survey data.

Our latest piece of research, a White Paper entitled Placing the Student at the Heart of Higher Education, sheds light on the importance of timetabling and resource scheduling in the fee-paying era.

Since the introduction of student fees in 1998, higher education has become an increasingly commercial entity. From 2017, some UK students will spend in excess of £9,000 a year on tuition fees. This makes it imperative for institutions to rank student satisfaction alongside academic excellence to ensure future success in both attracting and retaining their ‘customers’. Scientia’s analysis of ten years of the National Student Survey has uncovered four key findings that relate to the success of universities.

Satisfaction with organisation and management of university courses is improving

In line with the new challenges of the consumer-focused era, universities are seeking to improve their satisfaction scores by updating and improving their administration systems. In the past five years, university students who strongly agree that their course is well managed and organised has increased by five percent. Indeed, updates to administrative systems have also improved the number of students who agree their timetable is working effectively, with over 75% of respondents agreeing with this statement. In line with this, 78% of students agree and 40% strongly agree that changes to their course or teaching are communicated effectively.

The increasingly tech-focused lives students are living mean that they are more connected now than ever. Scientia’s solutions including Enterprise Foundation – its core timetabling suite – and Scientia Publish improve the student experience by keeping universities up to date with the latest technologies and systems.

Scientia’s clients come out on top in the National Student Survey

In the list of 22 institutions scoring a student satisfaction level of over 90%, 12 of Scientia’s clients featured. Students at these institutions reported an overall improved satisfaction level compared to their peers at universities that do not use Scientia’s solutions. Aberystwyth, for instance, charted the second biggest improvement this year, reaching the top 10 with an overall satisfaction score of 92%, up 9% on 2015.

Looking specifically at the Organisation and Management questions over 10 years, Scientia’s clients fill seven of the top 10 positions, showing just how important a successful timetabling and resource scheduling system is in improving the performance of higher education institutions.

To find out more about the success of our clients and solutions, please read our other blog, Institutions using Scientia’s solutions have a strong showing in the UK National Student Survey.

Organisation satisfaction varies across the country

With different organisational challenges that need to be overcome, the Organisation and Management results of institutions varied dramatically. Breaking the results down into regions, Northern Ireland came out on top with a satisfaction score of over 80%, whereas London brought up the rear with a score 7% lower. London’s challenges may be exacerbated as universities based in the capital tend to have split campuses, limited spare capacity for room scheduling as well as the fact that lecturers and students alike have to commute to and between the sites.

In the North West, universities are likewise split across the urban regions of Merseyside and Greater Manchester with similar complexities. At the other end of the spectrum, the East Midlands universities such as the University of Nottingham have sizeable campuses and good transport links.

Organisation satisfaction varies between subjects

Much to our surprise, History and Philosophy top the list of subjects that students “strongly agree” are well organised and managed, with Business and Engineering coming middle of the pack and Medicine bringing up the rear. With its complicated and varied schedules, Medicine will benefit most from a centralized timetabling approach. Scientia has been able to dramatically improve the organisation of complex schedules at the School of Health Sciences at City University, London, after the organisation adopted our centralised timetabling system.

Conclusion

In the student-as-consumer age, customer satisfaction counts. As has been demonstrated – and much to our expectation and satisfaction – Scientia’s solutions are at the forefront of delivering successful organisational and timetabling solutions to higher education institutions, improving our clients’ standings in the National Student Survey. Our student-focused solutions help our clients to deliver the best educational experience with the latest technologies to ensure future success.

Why we sponsor the Times Higher Education Awards

Recognising success in higher education is vital for a thriving sector, says James Grashoff, Head of Sales and Marketing EMEAA at Scientia.

Scientia presents the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology Award at the Times Higher Education Awards
James Grashoff, right, and Richard E Grant, second from right, present the Award for Outstanding Contriution to Innovation & Technology to staff from Nottingham Trent University

In November, I had the honour of presenting the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology Award at the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards in London.  Widely recognised as the Oscars of the UK higher education sector, the THE Awards were set up to shine a spotlight on the very best that UK universities and colleges have to offer.  Award categories cover everything from Research Project of the Year to Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community – and all points in between.

This was Scientia’s third consecutive year of sponsoring the Awards.  Not only is it a unique opportunity to network with some of the most influential people in our sector, but over the years we have been able to invite many senior staff from the institutions we support to celebrate the nominees and winners with us.  In short, it’s a fantastic way to see the breadth and volume of exemplary work going on in UK universities today.

As a Company, we believe in recognising and celebrating the success of others in our field.  That’s why we chose to sponsor the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation & Technology category, won this year by Nottingham Trent University where Paul Evans, Professor of Applied Imaging Science, and colleagues have made huge strides in developing 3D X-ray scanning, which is helping to make airports and air travel safer across the world.  As someone with more than his fair share of air miles, I want to personally thank Paul and his team for their efforts.

Would it have been nice for a Scientia client to win the Award we sponsored?  Of course!  But it’s hard to be disappointed: a quick glance reveals that almost 60% of the shortlist and more than 40% of the winners are Scientia clients.  To know we are trusted by so many institutions at the top of their game is both humbling and extremely gratifying.  That trust is highly motivating as we get ever closer to the delivery of our next-generation timetabling solution, based on innovative Cloud technologies.

We were particularly thrilled to see Aberystwyth shortlisted in the Most Improved Student Experience category.  A lower-than-expected result in the Organisation and Management section of the 2012 UK National Student Survey was the catalyst for their journey of improvement.  In 2013, Aberystwyth commissioned Scientia to undertake a Business Process Review which led to a complete rethink of its timetabling and space management processes.  Teaching space is now largely centrally-owned, meaning that formerly ‘hidden’ spaces devolved to Faculties are now visible to the central Timetabling Team.  By using our software’s auto-scheduling functionality, Aberystwyth has been able to optimise its use of rooms and resources, significantly improving utilisation rates.  The result: Top 4 in the UK and 1st in Wales for overall Student Satisfaction.  Jackie Sayce, Institute Manager at Aberystwyth, was kind enough to acknowledge the role successful timetabling has played there in our 2016 White Paper.

Above all else, we are thrilled to have contributed to the £10,000 raised by the event for the Nightline charity – a student listening service run by students, for students.  Every night of term, student volunteers answer calls, emails, instant messages, texts and talk in person to their fellow university students about anything that’s troubling them.  At a time when 1 in 3 students experiences distress at night, it’s a vital service – and one very close to my own heart, as I was a student volunteer whilst studying at Lancaster University some 35 years ago

Well done to all the nominees and winner at the 2016 THE Awards.

Darren Woodward appointed Head of Product Management at Scientia

Darren presenting at the EMEAA Scientia User Conference 2016
Darren presenting at the EMEAA Scientia User Conference 2016

Since the start of 2016, Scientia has been undergoing strategic restructuring to prepare for the shift in its focus from software products to software services. We are thrilled to announce that Darren Woodward, currently Examinations & Timetable Services Manager at The University of Auckland, will be joining us as Head of Product Management from January 2017.

Those who have met or worked with Darren will agree that he is perfect for this key role. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest university with over 40,000 students and some 5,000 full-time staff. It is the only New Zealand university ranked in the top 200 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Since joining in 2004, Darren has built up an exemplary scheduling team from scratch and has driven a programme of positive change – not least its paradigm shift to centralised timetabling.

He has long been an advocate for Scientia’s solutions – particularly Enterprise, of which Auckland was an early adopter. His broader experience includes being Chair of the Asia/Pacific Syllabus Plus Reference Group (ASPRG), and he has regularly attended our EMEAA Conference to discuss his experiences of using our solutions.

Darren is well aware of the demands and pressures of timetabling in a complex, pressured environment. He brings a great deal of knowledge and empathy, ensuring that Scientia continues to put the needs of its users at the heart of its operations. Darren will be leading us on our journey towards a Cloud-based scheduling solution, building on the significant progress we have already made.

Andrew Lau
Director of Scientia Ltd
For and on behalf of Scientia’s Executive Committee

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.

Institutions using Scientia’s solutions have a strong showing in the UK National Student Survey

UK student satisfaction at an all-time high

It’s that time of year again in the UK when students’ views about their institutions are published, analysed, and pored-over. On Wednesday, the results of the National Student Satisfaction Survey were released. Since its inception 11 years ago, over 2.5 million final-year undergraduates have taken part in the survey, organised by HEFCE, which consists of 23 questions spread across categories including teaching, assessment, academic support and – of particular interest to us – organisation and management, including the quality of the timetable and notification of changes. Here’s a nice infographic from the HEFCE website which shows its reach and engagement:UK Student Satisfaction Survey 2016

First things first: well done to all the participating institutions;  86% of the 300,000+ students who responded said that they were satisfied with their course, the same as the all-time high recorded in the 2014 and 2015 results. How to interpret this stellar result in the £9k-a-year fee era? It’s likely that universities realise they must work extra-hard to make the cost of an undergraduate degree seem worthwhile. In the student-as-consumer age, customer satisfaction counts.

But the real question on our mind was this: how did the institutions using our timetabling and resource-management solutions fare? A quick glance at the top 20 on the THE website revealed that no fewer than eight (40%) of our clients feature. Better still, The University of Law takes joint first place with a whopping 97% satisfaction score. Clients Keele and St Andrews share joint fourth place with 94%, and Aberystwyth squeaks into the top 10 with an admirable score of 92%, up no less than 9 points on their 2015 score – the second-biggest improvement of any institution this year.

Further down the table, Exeter, Lancaster, Dundee and Bath all put in a strong performance at 90% satisfaction or above. All in all, a fantastic result for some of our clients. But how much of their success can we attribute to the organisation and management of the courses – something our solutions directly influence?

The importance of the timetable in student satisfaction

The organisation and management section consists of three statements:

  • The timetable works efficiently as far as my activities are concerned
  • Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively
  • The course is well organised and running smoothly

We analysed the results from ten years of data and found some very interesting insights. We’re thrilled to report that Scientia’s clients filled seven of the top ten slots (70%) relating to organisation and management, and that the students attending institutions where our scheduling software is used report an overall improved satisfaction level compared to their peers.

Scientia-Top10-Satisfied with organisation and management_70%

Going deeper, if we analyse the results regionally we see a large difference. Northern Ireland’s institutions lead the way with their organisation and management results, whereas the London institutions have the worst showing. That’s important data for us, and something to address with existing and future clients.

UK Student Satisfaction Survey 2016

We are delighted to see continued improvement in universities’ organisation and management over the past ten years. As the chart below shows, 2016 is the best-ever for satisfaction.

UK Student Satisfaction Survey 2016

Announcing Scientia’s partnership with AMBA

In the brilliant company of AMBA – ensuring excellence at the world’s top Business Schools

There was a real buzz at our office in Cambridge last Wednesday morning as we eagerly awaited the arrival of Andrew Main Wilson, Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and colleagues.  They were visiting to sign off on a landmark partnership, 12-months in the making, that will help Scientia to better understand the global Business School market, enabling us to respond to the unique timetabling challenges which those Schools face.  In doing so, we hope to transform how Business Schools meet their specific scheduling needs.

Scientia's partnership with AMBA aims to improve scheduling at Business Schools worldwide
Andrew Main Wilson, AMBA’s CEO (left), and James Grashoff, Scientia’s Head of Sales & Marketing EMEAA, sign the partnership agreement.

Not all MBAs are created equal

You may not have heard of AMBA, but you will almost certainly have heard of MBAs: the Master of Business Administration, a postgraduate degree which is widely held to be the essential foundation for a successful business management career.  But there are MBAs, and then there are AMBA-accredited MBAs: rigorous assessment ensures that only the highest calibre MBA programmes which demonstrate the best standards in teaching, curriculum and student interaction achieve the AMBA accreditation.  That’s roughly the top 2% of MBA programmes worldwide.  At a time when the value of an MBA is questionable, and the traditional, institution-based learning model is being disrupted by online providers such as Coursera, an AMBA-accredited MBA is still a sure-fire path to success and, ultimately, wealth: in its 2013 survey, AMBA found that MBA graduates from its UK accredited Business Schools received an average salary of over £82,000.  More importantly, AMBA-accredited MBAs offer top-quality connections with the alumni of some of the world’s best Business Schools.

Responding to the unique scheduling challenges of Business Schools

The Business School market is fast-growing and competitive.  As with the higher- and further-education markets, institutions are increasingly under pressure to maximise their use of rooms and resources and provide accurate, up-to-date timetables to staff and students.  With nearly 30-years of experience behind our class-leading timetabling and resource management software, we’re confident that we can help AMBA’s accredited Business Schools to overcome their specific scheduling challenges: meeting the needs of ambitious students with high expectations; timetabling lectures for high-level business leaders with changing schedules and limited availability; and managing the extra data resulting from partnerships with affiliate schools and universities.  More importantly, this partnership shows that AMBA are confident of that, too.

Building on solid foundations

This is not a new space for Scientia: we already supply scheduling solutions to more than 130 Business Schools worldwide – nearly 40 of which are AMBA-accredited.  With our help, institutions including Cass Business School, Greenwich School of Management, Copenhagen Business School, BI Oslo, Norwegian School of Economics and ESADE (Barcelona) have been able to optimise their use of staff, rooms and resources, thereby meeting demand, reducing cost and improving student satisfaction.

James Grashoff, Scientia’s Head of Sales & Marketing (EMEAA), said:

“We’re thrilled to be working with AMBA. Our partnership will enable us to respond to the unique scheduling challenges which Business Schools face, particularly the complexities of timetabling within a fast-changing environment. We look forward to building on our work in this sector.”

Andrew Main Wilson, AMBA’s Chief Executive Officer, said:

“In the increasingly competitive and complex global world of postgraduate management education, every Business School is now searching for competitive advantages and more efficient customer service levels. The need for optimising efficiencies from resource planning, including campus facilities and full- and part-time faculty utilisation is now, I believe, becoming more rigorously reviewed, and time-pressed domestic and international students are now demanding more time-efficient curriculum scheduling. We have therefore partnered with Scientia to offer our Schools leading edge thinking and software in best practice scheduling and timetabling.”

If you’re an AMBA-accredited School or Member, look out for our posts on the AMBA Community site.  Visit our website to find our why we beat the competition to become Regent’s University’s chosen provider.

Business Schools can improve their scheduling with Scientia
Colleagues from AMBA & Scientia who were instrumental in creating the partnership. L-R: Tommaso Scali, Emily Wall, Andrew Main Wilson (AMBA); James Grashoff, Jasvinder Virdi (Scientia).

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.

Some exam nightmares you can’t plan for. For the rest, there’s Exam Scheduler.

Is your institution ready for Exam Season?

Exam calendar iconThis is a stressful time of year for students, as proved by a slew of recent articles on how to stay positive and manage anxiety during exam season.   Exam stress isn’t just the preserve of HE students:  in the UK, new figures have revealed that the NSPCC-run ChildLine has delivered 3,077 counselling sessions about exam stress to young people last year, a rise of nine per cent on 2014/15.  In Hertfordshire, anyone aged between 10 and 25 and registered with a Herts GP surgery can sign up anonymously and have an online chat with a fully-trained therapist, reports the Herts & Essex Observer.

Exam season is also a stressful time for the institutions hosting the exams.  Their aim is to make the experience as stress-free as possible for their students whilst juggling the need for radically altered timetables and room requirements, plus extra staff in the form of invigilators.  Their solution must cater for everyone, ensuring that the needs of students with disabilities, health conditions, specific learning difficulties are met.

That’s where our Exam Scheduler solution comes in: it helps institutions to optimise their students’ experience by reducing the operational risks which extraordinary events, like exams, produce.

Don’t take our word for it: hear Dr Julian Moss, former Head of Student Academic Services at Liverpool University, talk about how Exam Scheduler helped them to lessen the risk of errors, better manage their invigilator allocation, and reduce their exam scheduling process from 12-15 person days to just one day.

Things Exam Scheduler can’t help you prepare for include riots,  storms, fire alarms and bomb threats.  Maybe in v3.6??

Good luck to everyone preparing for and sitting exams over the coming weeks, and to our valued customers around the world which support them.

“Change is vital, improvement the logical form of change.” J C Penney

Duncan Corbett presenting Scientia's Cloud visionA few weeks ago – hot on the heels of a ‘big birthday’ – Duncan Corbett, Project Manager for Enterprise Foundation, celebrated his 17th year at Scientia.  The occasion was also marked by an exciting new chapter beginning in the history of the Company.  He explains all in this guest blog:


When I arrived here in 1999 to help train users of our software, Scientia essentially had two products: Syllabus Plus Course Planner and Syllabus Plus Exam Scheduler.  Some of you reading this may have already been users of those products as far back as the early 90s.  I think it’s those long-term users who coined the term “Classic” to refer to those original products in much the same way as people use the term to refer to a much loved older model of car.  Much has changed in those 17 years.

Snake game on a Nokia phoneIn 1999 the internet was only 10 years old.  If you were lucky you had an Intel Pentium II processor with a speed measured in MHz.  It was probably running Windows 3.1, NT or – at a push – 95.  Windows 98 was still seen as uncharted waters for most.  Your mobile phone, if you had one, had a small screen, buttons with numbers on and you used it to make phone calls or to play “Snake”.

Shortly before I joined, Syllabus had moved to a tab-based interface, with logical groupings of properties being displayed on separate tabs.  Prior to that the controls for every property of an object had been crammed onto a single page.  In spite of the fact that this meant you needed 20/20 vision and rock-steady mouse control to do anything, some users were uncomfortable with the move to tabs because it required more mouse clicks to get to the information they wanted.

In 2004 we released our Web Room Booking solution, enabling students and staff to make ad-hoc room and resource bookings themselves through a web browser, reducing the burden on admin staff and giving greater transparency to the process.  We also introduced browser-based data collection tools to gather the timetable requirements of stakeholders; previously most customers were using paper forms that required manual data entry with the associated risks of misunderstanding and error.  Similarly, in Student Allocator we delivered a browser-based solution that enables students to choose modules and activities, broadening participation further whilst reducing cost, time and duplication of effort.

Possibly our biggest leap until now in the development of our timetabling solution came in 2007 with the release of Syllabus Plus Enterprise – or Enterprise Foundation, as the core suite of software scheduling tools is now known.  This is essentially a re-working of the user interface elements of Syllabus Plus.  It provides a more modern look and feel, a more task-centric, rather than data-centric interface, and a more granular set of permissions.  This meant that Enterprise Timetabler, for example, might be given to users that would not have been trusted with Syllabus Plus Classic for fear of the damage they might do to the data.

Cloud computing iconMeanwhile, back in the world of technology, the big shift in computing has been the trend towards Cloud-based solutions and the supply of software as a service.  Before the advent of Cloud computing you would need to source and maintain sufficiently powerful hardware to cope with your maximum demand for computing power; implying a level of built-in redundancy.  A Cloud-based solution means that the software provider supplies and maintains the computing power and the supply can flex to meet your requirements.  Enterprise Activity Adjuster (EAA)was our first toe in the water with respect to this new technology.  I can remember vividly standing in a lecture theatre in Auckland, New Zealand, using a prototype of EAA to make a change to an activity in a Scientia Database hosted in the cloud; the server was actually in Dublin, Ireland.  It struck me at the time that, without leaving earth it would be difficult to pick two places further from each other; a powerful demonstration of the potential of the Cloud.

Scientia Publish on a mobile phone
Our Publish product gives students personalised timetables on any connected device

Since then we have made further forays into the world of Cloud-based solutions: Resource Booker is slowly gaining market share from our highly-successful Web Room Booking solution, empowering students and staff to manage their own room and equipment bookings.  Publish enables staff and students to receive personalised timetables directly to smartphones, tablets and laptops, letting them view their timetable in the browser or calendar apps of their choice.

And that brings us back to the new chapter in Scientia’s history that’s about to begin.  In March this year, at our annual EMEAA User Conference, we announced the development of an entirely new, Cloud-based scheduling solution.  That’s exciting: despite the fast-paced nature of the technology industries, it’s not every day that you are afforded the opportunity of spear-heading a completely fresh start on a company’s core product.  A store of enhancements that I’ve been building over the course of years, all of which would be too disruptive to introduce to the current solution, are now back on the table.

No doubt there will be challenges.  Customers will naturally have questions about data security and privacy.  This will, of course, be a vital component of whatever the new solution looks like, but holding large datasets securely in the Cloud is not an issue that Scientia uniquely has to address.  It’s an issue that is common to all Cloud-based solutions, some of which are dealing with data that’s much more sensitive than the timetable information we are managing.

It’s natural that we approach change with caution.  I can remember talking to users in my early days who were uncertain how they’d manage with the move to “this new-fangled tabbed user interface”, but I don’t think that any of us would now vote to move back to the cluttered single window approach.  We recognise that the change has brought improvement.  Similarly, reimagining our scheduling solution for the Cloud is not just exciting for me – it will also bring benefits to our customers: the 400+ tertiary education institutions worldwide which rely on Scientia’s products to maximise the use of their resources while providing students with an excellent education.  A timetabling solution based in the Cloud will bring a lower total cost of ownership, and improved scalability.  Free from the constraints imposed by legacy software, we can design for easier integration with other software, easier localisation and improved performance.  What’s not to like?

Our developers are currently busy planning the development project and thinking about the first prototype application that we’ll use to test our new Cloud-based scheduling engine.  I’ve already had the opportunity to share my aspirations with them so that we ensure that those goals are not excluded by anything we do in the early stages of development.  We have promised our customers a detailed development plan in July so look out for an update from me then.

Duncan Corbett is Product Manager for Syllabus Plus Enterprise.

Staff at Radboud UMC to tackle alpine cancer challenge

Scientia Sponsors Alps Cycle Challenge for Cancer

Radboud UMC sponsorship for cancer cycle challenge
Radboud UMC’s Alpe d’HuZes cycling jersey. Click to see the sponsors.

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.