Publish is the go-to product for personalised timetables for students and university staff. For myriad reasons, not every institution can provide individual timetables for all students. That’s where Publish’s Open Timetables service shines.
DCU has been a Scientia client for 20 years, and a Publish user for 2. Due to the way DCU organises its more complex course programmes, it doesn’t import individual students into Syllabus Plus, meaning not everyone is able to get a personalised timetable via Publish. Therefore, some students receive a programme level timetable, searching by location, module or programme of study.
DCU currently uses the Scientia Web Services platform (SWS) to publish public timetables via an in-house, HTML front end. This solution has served DCU well, but is unsupported bespoke software that has a dated look and feel and is not mobile-friendly.
It is dependent on Syllabus Plus, meaning that if the DCU experienced any server downtime, then the timetable would be also be unavailable.
Aengus Gordon, Senior Business Analyst at DCU, first came into contact with Open Timetables on a Scientia Publish webinar. It instantly piqued his interest:
We knew our SWS solution had reached its end of life and didn’t fit with the progress we’ve made elsewhere in the digital space. We wanted to give all the university’s stakeholders greater visibility of the timetable, whether they want to search by location, module or programme of study. As an existing Publish user, Open Timetables looked to be exactly the service we’ve been waiting for: a functional replacement for our SWS configuration.
Cloud-native and built responsively for mobile, Publish Open Timetables gives a premium user experience: “It was very obviously a huge leap forward in terms of look and feel from our SWS timetable. Finding a timetable is just so intuitive, and a lot of thought has obviously been given to what timetable information is prioritised in mobile views, which is how the majority of our users will view it.”
Importantly, it also runs independently of Syllabus Plus: “With SWS pulling data from the Syllabus Plus Reporting Database, if we experienced any server downtime then the public timetable will also be impacted. That can cause major disruption for the University. Cloud hosting is a major benefit of Open Timetables – 24/7 access independent of our internal IT systems. It’s even more reassuring that it’s on Microsoft Azure, which has class-leading uptime.”
Seeing the service in greater detail at the Scientia User Conference in March 2018, Aengus was convinced and asked to be an early-adopter of the software.
Having validated the service with its own data, DCU will conduct a pilot project across all faculties this coming academic year (from September 2018). It will test Open Timetables with an initial group of 250 students. All being well, it will roll the service out to all students by the start of Semester 2, in early 2019. The acid test is what the end- users think:
So far, everyone’s been overwhelmingly positive about it,” said Aengus. “We wanted an SWS replacement, but this is so much more. Being able to view the timetable in multiple ways – list view, calendar view – and over a user- selectable period of time is really powerful; and having more control over what students see is a major thing from an administrator’s point of view. I am really happy with Open Timetables and all the support from the Scientia team in getting DCU this far. This form of vender-customer collaboration is critical in delivering quality services to students and staff.
So what’s next for timetable publishing at DCU? “The aspiration is to give each student their individual timetable through Publish. Until then, Open Timetables is the perfect solution.”