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STOP - Student Timetabling Online Project

Funded by JISC - Project Duration: August 2010 - April 2011

JISC LogoThe STOP Project is funded by JISC under the Flexible Service Delivery Programme

The Student Timetabling Online Project (STOP) was developed due to the identification of the need for the provision of a timetable in a sufficiently timely fashion to allow students to make informed work/life/study decisions as one of a number of changes that not only benefited students, but also increased the professionalism with which the university engages with students.

The Student Timetabling Online Project (STOP) was developed due to the identification of the need for the provision of a timetable in a sufficiently timely fashion allowing students to make informed work/life/study decisions, as one of a number of changes that not only benefited students, but also increased the professionalism with which the University engages with students. In addition, there is a requirement to improve the utilisation of the University’s estate. Over the last 6 years, 8 new building projects have enhanced the teaching provision of the university estate at a cost of over £70M. As demand for rooms increases, it is important that additional demand makes efficient use of existing space before there is a need for additional building work. The STOP project will use a business process review methodology to establish the current “as is” and roadmap the required development to achieve the “to be”. The project will utilise change management methodology to manage the introduction and engagement of this project across the institution.

 

Currently the method through which students receive their timetable varies considerably from school to school. Generally students receive a draft version of a timetable prior to arrival in either a paper copy or a word or excel document. They can access individual module information through their eLearn (VLE) accounts for each module or look up a room on the UCLan Module Catalogue. However, this system is not free from flaws and requires the students to have particular information such as module code, group numbers, staff names, etc and often the information on the system is not sufficient to respond to the students’ queries. They cannot however, access their full timetable through any of the university systems and it is only available in the format in which it was originally provided (paper based). Often students are frustrated with not receiving complete timetables before arrival as it causes them issues such as arranging suitable child care and fitting in employment. The frustration with timetables can cause undue stress to students and can have a significantly detrimental effect on a student on the brink of withdrawal.

UCLan recognises that the university needs to become more flexible to enable the students to juggle university around their lives and work. Therefore, they need a system, which will deliver their timetable in a timely manner and will be easy to access on an ongoing basis. The process will aid retention by encouraging staff to plan their modules in advance allowing students a clearer picture of their lesson times. Rooms are currently booked through the Room Bookings unit, who use the CMIS system however, the scheduling aspect of the software is not utilised. Academic staff create timetables for the courses they run and submit them to the Room Bookings Team who allocate the rooms. This means that rooms are allocated partly on a first come first served basis and partly on informal rules, which should not be applied. As a result the room allocated may not be the most suitable room for the purpose. For example a 500 capacity lecture theatre can be booked for a class with 40 students.

 

Overbooking often occurs by staff booking more rooms than required. STOP aims to develop a system to provide an online environment, through which timetables are automatically created. This system will be influenced by a policy that outlines considerations and constraints. The system will enable the production of timetables based on staff name, student name or module. STOP would create a variety of timetables from courses that run following the standard academic year to part time, evening and weekend courses and courses that do not follow the standard academic calendar.

 

The system will be designed to work with the current CMIS room booking system and other university systems such as the student record system, Banner, to enable the creation of these timetables. The new system will significantly improve the experience of students who require specialist support such as a signer to interpret their lecture. Currently these support staff often struggle to access information about the location of students’ classes, which can prevent the students receiving the support they require. The new system will enable these staff to search for the students and find their individual timetable.

Team

  • David Turner - LIS Development Team (Project Manager)
  • Lucy Warman - LIB Business Support (Project Manager - JISC delivery)
  • Karen Cresham - LIS Development & Business Enhancement (Business Analyst)
  • LIS Development Team
  • Anne Kelly - FM Estates Room Booking Assistant
  • David Wilding - FM Estates Room Booking Assistant
  • Louisa Dignan - LIS Business Support (Research Assistant)

Results & outputs

  • STOP JISC FSD Case Study
  • Evaluation case studies of experiences in the STOP project
  • STOP Communication Strategy
  • STOP As Is
  • STOP Pilot Test Schedule
  • STOP To Be
  • UCLan Timetabling Policy (July 2011)
  • Load issues with ePortal
  • Introduction to STOP for Staff (Video)
  • Using the software (video)
  • System interface flow charts
  • Reflection on potential impact of EA
  • JISC InfoNet Impact Calculator

project aims to;

  • Establish a common baseline to generate an understanding of the “as is” to map the current workflows, data, applications and other technologies used to support the current ICT function and administrative and student service provision to enable the assessment of cost, risk and improvement opportunities.
  • Roadmap the required development to achieve the “to be” including a blueprint of which governance, workflows, data, applications and technologies, and possible new models of service provision (internal and external) will be needed to support the organisational model;
  • Establish a university policy on timetabling and issues resolution to identify the considerations, which will be incorporated into the generation of the timetables and how conflicts over limited room types are resolved.
  • Apply business process re-engineering to review and rework the timetabling system to leave the definition of timetabling constraints with the schools, but centralise the administrative and scheduling activities of the process in Facilities Management (Room Bookings Unit) using the CMIS scheduling system.
  • Provide appropriate integration between CMIS and other corporate systems (e.g. Banner the students records system and Trent the staff records system) to ensure consistent use of data and minimise duplication of data entry. This will link the students’ data, with the room allocation data and the staff members’ data.
  • Establish a timetable publication mechanism through MyUCLan (the system through which students access their personal data, results and financial information) or CMIS so that timetables for students, lecturers, and modules are available online, allowing students access to their timetables at all times.
  • Refine the timetabling process to minimise changes to the timetable after publication, with an emphasis initially on minimising changes to event times rather than room allocations. Students will benefit from this as time changes can cause undue stress for students and can be the tipping point for a student who is on the brink of withdrawal.
  • Develop effective communication mechanisms to notify staff and students of any changes to the timetable through the use of automated SMS messaging system.
  • To improve customer service delivery through the implementation of the system.
  • Measure and monitor the effects of the new timetabling process on estate utilisation to judge its effectiveness against the university policy on timetabling and to identify further areas for improvement.
  • Measure and monitor the effect of the new timetabling process on the student experience.
  • To explore how the lessons learnt and the developments achieved through the project can be disseminated and repurposed to benefit the sector.

The project has two main objectives:

  • Making timetable information available (online) to students in a timely fashion to allow students to make informed work/life/study decisions, with a particular focus on part time students.
  • To maximise room utilisation across the university, providing efficient use of the university’s estate. In the event of