Tag Archives: #suc17

Day one of the Scientia User Conference

The Importance of Scheduling for Student Satisfaction

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.


Darren Woodward at the Scientia User Conference 2017We 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’

Dr Ben Calvert, USW, student satisfactionNext 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

SUC17_hkhThe 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

Mark Dickens, ScientiaThe 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.

Winning Quiz team photo
Victorious Celts – the winning team at this year’s Conference Quiz

More insights and photos from our 2017 EMEAA User Conference soon!

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.