Tag Archives: education technology

Ten Reasons to Come to the 2017 Scientia User Conference

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Amazing value

    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.

Click here for the Conference schedule and to book you place today.  See photos from last year’s Conference.

“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.

Edtech is a Driving Force for UK Economy

The digital tech industry is playing a fundamental role in the UK’s economic growth according to the recent Tech Nation 2016 report. With an estimated annual turnover over £161bn and more than 1.56m jobs created over the last five years, it is widely regarded as an invaluable resource to strengthen the UK economy.

One specific tech sector that has proven its worth is edtech (education technology). According to London & Partners and EdTech UK, edtech is one of the fastest growing tech sectors in Britain with a global worth of £45bn – a number that is set to reach £129bn by 2020.

Business is booming for companies that choose to disrupt the traditional ‘top-down’ approach of universities setting the agenda for tutors and students.

James Grashoff, Scientia’s head of sales and marketing, EMEAA, said: “We had a very successful 2015, welcoming 24 new clients across both Europe and Asia Pacific regions.  This shows that institutions understand the value of improving the systems which underpin their education programme. As a result of edtech’s increasing popularity, we are focussing on cloud-based applications such as Resource Booker – an application that makes it easier for staff and students to manage bookings online for space, equipment and tutoring sessions – whilst maintaining our support for traditional software installations.”

Edtech is relieving the pressure on institutions as they endeavour to deliver a service that meets the needs and expectations of both staff and students. For example, Anglia Ruskin University, based in Cambridge and Chelmsford, has benefitted from the introduction of Scientia’s Enterprise Foundation, which has increased student and staff satisfaction and improved utilisation of facilities. Similarly, AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand, is also using Enterprise Foundation to deliver flexible and clash-free timetabling.

The demand for edtech will continue to rise as schools and colleges face more pressure to adjust teaching techniques to cater for today’s ‘connected’ learners. It is the responsibility of UK tech companies to supply innovative applications that help institutions deliver a better service to both staff and students.