Today, we chat to Kerry Hunt. Kerry started his Scientia career in consultancy and then moved to the Product Manager role nearly 3 years ago. He is now responsible for the development and pathway of both Resource Booker and Publish.
Whether you need to deliver a timetable to a staff member’s mobile phone, notify a student of a last minute location change for this afternoon’s seminar, or a feed a digital sign with a room timetable in a building’s reception area, Publish has it covered.
Hi Kerry, Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed today, can you explain to me what’s been happening with Publish?
“This year has been very exciting for Publish development. We’ve had a big focus on enhancing the delivery of personal timetables. This sees administrative functionality arriving with version 2.4. Alongside this, we have also been working on Open Timetables which is a brand new service to allow our customers to make certain timetables publicly available. There has been a great deal of customer engagement with a number of sites involved in beta testing which has been invaluable.”
What can you tell me about the administrative functionality?
“This has been major step forward for Publish. Until now, the service has been focussed on a user logging and viewing or building their personal timetable. There hasn’t been the concept of an administrator, but that has all changed now.
Publish 2.4 introduces of three important aspects; User Groups, Activity Manager and Review. Essentially these concepts put the Publish administrator in control of which activities are published, to whom and to what extent.
Firstly, the Administrators can define custom User Groups and manage membership of the Administrator role. This is the “to whom” aspect. One User Groups could be defined for staff and another for students. What we’re trying to achieve here is for administrators to give staff a different view of the timetable to students – for example, publishing a draft timetable to staff members.
Once User Groups have been defined, Activity Manager comes into play. It allows the administrator to control which activities are published to each user group, and to what extent. This is done by defining custom “statuses”. Sticking with the draft timetable example, you could create a “Draft” and a “Final” status. You could then configure activity manager so that both the staff and student user groups are shown activities in Final status – and the activities should be published in full. In contrast, only the staff user group would be shown activities with Draft status and the location information would be hidden. Giving the administrators to power to create their user groups and statuses is really flexible and powerful concept – I’m looking forward to seeing how our customers use it!”
You mentioned Review, what you can you tell me about that area?
“It’s a great bit of functionality that our users have been crying out for. Simply put, it allows Publish administrators to search for and review the timetable of another Publish user. We’ve had lots of feedback asking for this feature, but the timing of its arrival alongside Activity Manager gives it an even greater significance. In the review feature, we’ve included the ability to review a user’s timetable as it would appear both with or without Activity Manager enabled. This will be a huge benefit as people get to grips with the power of Activity Manager and allow them to see the effect it will have on the timetable before switching it on.
That’s a lot of new functionality, how do you prioritise the development of the product?
“This is where our customer engagement comes in. Following the early releases of Publish, there has been a great deal of feedback and it’s all taken on board. The message was loud and clear – our customers needed the administrative capability to control what is published, and they needed a way of viewing the timetable of another user.
Open Timetables is something that takes Publish beyond just the delivery of personal timetables. This is something we know is in high demand. A large number of our customers use our SWS product and would love to see that solution modernised.
As we’ve already done with Resource Booker, soon we’re likely to be adopting the Idea Manager platform for Publish. This will give customers the opportunity to vote on what features matter most to them. This really helps to gauge demand, prioritise development and build the product roadmap.
Open Timetables – you mentioned that this is a new service to the Publish suite. What can you tell me?
“As I said before, we have many customers using SWS to deliver various types of timetable. Obvious examples are the timetables of modules, programmes of study or locations. Until now, Publish has been focussed on personal timetables. With Open Timetables, we’re now turning attention to allow an institution’s stakeholders to have that greater visibility of the timetable – and this is going to have a big appeal to SWS users. The user interface looks fantastic, and it’s built using the Syllabus Plus Anywhere front-end technology. The application gives a great mobile experience which is extremely important today, and is something SWS simply doesn’t offer.”
What’s the significance of “Open” in Open Timetables?
Great question. This is an important point. The first release of this service is for those timetables our customers who wish to make available without authentication. In other words – they could be accessed from the institution website without the need to log in. Each customer will have their own view of which types of timetable should be published like this; One institution may wish to make their Programme, Module, Location and Staff timetables publicly accessible whereas another may choose to only publish their Module and Location timetables in this way. Either way, we can configure it to their requirements.
The great thing is that we can build on this in future, adding authentication to a future release so that we can present these timetables based on which user groups a user belongs to. There is huge potential ahead!
And you mentioned that customers have been BETA testing these products?
“Yes – that’s been really helpful! Dublin City University initially approached us after attending a webinar back in February – they were very keen on Open Timetables based on what they’d seen. After then attending my presentation at the Scientia User Conference in March DCU asked to be an early-adopter. They explained their current situation and how they thought that Open Timetables could solve problems with their current SWS, and provide a better user experience. Swinburne University in Australia have also been heavily involved and provided some incredibly useful feedback. This kind of collaboration with our customers has worked brilliantly – some of the beta testing feedback has fed directly into development, with functional enhancements being included in this release. The result is that we’ve developed a product to truly match the requirements of the customer.”
When can customers expect Open Timetables to be released?
“It’s out now”.