Tag Archives: integration

Introducing Syllabus+ Anywhere

What’s in a name? For us, everything, says Darren Woodward, Head of Product Management at Scientia

Darren Woodward, Head of Product Management at ScientiaWhat is a technology year worth in human years?  Can we apply the same 1:7 ratio we do to calculate ‘dog years’?  At approaching 30 years old, Syllabus+, our core scheduling software, should be pushing up the daisies by now.  And yet it’s not.  Hundreds of iterations on from its launch, Syllabus+ still gets a lot right, which is why it’s the number one choice for academic scheduling worldwide.  That’s why many of our clients have been with us almost as long as Scientia has existed.  Syllabus+ is also Scientia’s most-recognised brand.  For a company which is known as Cyon across half the world, that’s important.

The recognition and trust in the Syllabus+ name is the reason we’ve retained it for our forthcoming solution.  But that’s about the only thing we’ve retained.  Syllabus+ Anywhere is a completely new system, built on leading-edge technology and free from the constraints of a legacy system – but underpinned by the knowledge and experience we’ve gained through its forebear’s faithful service.

Communication: the foundation of healthy relationships

This is the most fundamental change Scientia has made in almost 30 years of business.  We knew that this was not a journey we could take without major input from our customers.  Product development at Scientia has always been collaborative and based on actual need, not perceived need.  But as our client base has grown to some 450 institutions worldwide, we’ve sometimes found it a challenge to maintain the levels of communication which are easier for smaller organisations.  As a former customer, I know how frustrating that can be.

As the saying goes, the first step is admitting you have a problem.  You told us, we listened, and we’ve worked hard to improve communication and feedback opportunities for customers.  In the past year alone, we have:

  • Launched Idea Manager, a platform which enables customers to influence our development focus by voting for candidate features. These candidates are themselves derived from client requests and suggestions.  The first voted-for features will be implemented in the forthcoming 3.14 release of Syllabus+ Enterprise;
  • Surveyed users to discover what functionality they most use in our current solutions, resulting in more than 75 individual use cases which will feed into the development of Syllabus+ Anywhere;
  • Run detailed User Journey Mapping sessions at client institutions, enabling us to drill down into the requirements of different roles at an institution; and
  • Launched a simplified Customer Satisfaction Survey, making it easier for users to tell us when we get it right – or wrong.

This is on top of ongoing customer support activities, which include:

  • A dedicated Account Manager;
  • Our Customer Support Portal with ‘Knowledge Base’ – solutions to more than 400 real-world Service Desk queries;
  • Free monthly Webinars, enabling customers to keep abreast of the latest developments in our software; and
  • International Conferences and User Groups, providing much-needed ‘group hug’ opportunities for the tortured souls in the unique world of academic timetabling.

Joining the dots with Syllabus+ Anywhere

From our earliest days, we have had to ensure effective data transfers within Scientia’s scheduling suite and between third party applications.  As we have shown with Connect, integrating Syllabus+ with applications such as student records systems is both achievable and beneficial.  But our suite of distinct ‘boxed’ products has led to what could be seen as a disjointed offer.  All that ends with Syllabus+ Anywhere.  The micro-services architecture enables us to provide a scalable offer with the flexibility to pick only the elements you need from a holistic solution, with effective interoperability with other enterprise solutions baked in.

One thing clients have been keen to discuss is the process of migration from the current system to the new one.  We will help each customer to create an individualised migration plan.  When all of the functions currently covered by Enterprise are fully supported by Syllabus+ Anywhere so that any customer could choose to migrate, we guarantee that we will continue to support the products being replaced for a further two years.  We will make an announcement to that effect when we reach that point in development.

At the end of that two-year period the legacy software will continue to run indefinitely, and you will still own a perpetual licence to use it.  All that changes is that Scientia will cease to devote development resource to the legacy products.  But looking at what Syllabus+ Anywhere delivers from a customer point of view, institutions are going to see the benefits of migrating to the new system as soon as they can – and we’re going to make it a no-brainer to do that.

Beyond the back office

By providing powerful reporting functions, timetabling moves from a required ‘back office’ service to a valuable strategic resource for any institution.  For example, accurately predicting your institution’s future space needs will be easier than ever with Syllabus+ Anywhere.

More than ever, the university timetable is visible and accessible by students, staff and faculties.  Self-service selection of study modules, booking rooms and resources, integrating lecture or teaching timetables with your personal calendar: all possible from any web browser on any connected device.  Our software has the ability to powerfully represent the student voice in the scheduling mix; maximising this to enhance student experience and engagement is yet another way of activating the strategic value of timetabling services.  This is particularly pertinent in the UK, where university funding is now partly dependent on student satisfaction outcomes.

Right now, I’m looking forward to sharing the progress we’ve made with customers coming to the Scientia User Conference this week.  Hope to see you there!

Darren

Across the pond and over the desk: Introducing Darren Woodward, Head of Product Management at Scientia Ltd

Darren Woodward, Head of Product Management at Scientia
Two weeks in – still smiling!

Academic timetabling’s one of those curious professions: almost no one outside of it knows exactly what it is or what it entails – and that goes for other university staff, too. The flip side of this coin is that those in the profession get to know each other very well – particularly those in the Scientia family, facilitated by the Company’s range of excellent user events and virtual networking opportunities.

As the title of this post suggests, I’ve recently made the leap from Scientia client to employee, joining as Head of Product Management. With our Product and Development teams based in the UK, I’ve also relocated here from New Zealand. Having spent the past 16 years in a range of strategic roles at the University of Auckland, a long-term Scientia client, it’s fair to say I was a pretty well-known face on the Asia Pacific (APAC) scheduling scene. So whilst I’ve been to a few of Scientia’s European User Conferences and met some ‘local’ Timetablers, my name isn’t exactly synonymous with Scientia beyond APAC. That’s something I hope to quickly change, and I’ll be drawing heavily on my experiences as a client to shape how we do things – and not just from a product perspective.

As with most big career changes, the decision to jump wasn’t a single issue thing. Suffice it to say that I was ready for a new challenge just as Scientia was tooling up for the biggest change in its near-30-year history: the development of a brand new, Cloud-based scheduling solution. Let’s be honest: Cloud services are hardly innovative these days. Nonetheless, the benefits for our clients of moving to a Cloud-based, service delivery model are compelling:

  • Flexibility: the ability to scale up (or down) with ease, without further investment in hardware or space
  • Automatic software updates: the latest releases installed remotely by the expert service provider
  • A lower total cost of ownership: users save on hardware costs/upgrades and on-premise consultancy time
  • Reclaimed space: in some cases, entire rooms which were once full of server racks can be repurposed
  • Access from anywhere: with flexible working practices becoming more common, the ability to access business-critical data from anywhere is vital

What piqued my interest were the opportunities for the next generation of Syllabus Plus – whatever it’s ultimately called. Being part of this development and seeing how much work has already occurred is, frankly, thrilling. The new architecture and design approach will see the delivery of a range of innovative new solutions, with a huge capacity for rapid responsiveness to an ever-changing tertiary market.

But that is really the mechanics under the hood. What I am most looking forward to is being part of a team which will deliver a whole new level of functionality, visibility, interoperability and usability to its existing and future customers. This is where my experience lines up with Scientia’s vision: moving the traditionally ‘back office’ functions of timetabling to a core strategic service within the university. Everything from planning capital building programmes to academic delivery modelling can benefit from timetable data. Combined with powerful integration and reporting tools, our vision is for a complete planning and scheduling solution which goes way beyond putting students and staff in a room together. Now that’s exciting to me and is something I wanted to be a part of.

Moving from Scientia client to employee gives me the ability to see things from a customer perspective, and that’s how I intend to operate: as our customers’ champion and conduit; a channel to make their voice heard in the ongoing development of our current and future solutions. It’s an exciting time to be part of the Scientia family, and I’ll be sharing further thoughts as I get my feet well and truly under the desk.

About Darren

After graduating with an Art History and Politics Degree, Darren spent the following 10 years working in the corporate sector, primarily as an Account Manager with Apple Education, before entering the tertiary education sector.  Originally entering the Auckland College of Education prior to its amalgamation with the University of Auckland, he was involved in special projects, data analysis and strategic reporting before being seconded onto the Automated Timetabling Project in 2009 as Modelling Analysis to support the implementation of Scientia’s Syllabus Plus Enterprise solution.

Having been appointed the Manager of Timetabling Services in 2010, that service merged with the Examinations Office to form the Examinations and Timetabling Office, supporting both academic and exam scheduling.   A focus that Darren brought to the role was to move the ‘back office’ functions of timetabling to a core strategic service within the University, consulted with on future major capital works building programmes and academic delivery options.  During this time he continued studying, completing a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration on Information Systems.  He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree.

Darren joined Scientia as Head of Product Management in January 2017.

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.