If you schedule it, they will come. Timetablers assemble for Scientia’s biggest international User Conference yet.

More than 200 Scientia software users descended on the Radisson Blu Hotel at Stansted Airport, UK for the annual EMEAA User Conference last week.  Running since 1998, this was a record year with more institutions, delegates and user-led presentations than ever before.  This year’s theme was Managing Complex Resources in a Competitive World – an opportunity to explore how Scientia’s scheduling solutions are making timetabling and resource management easier for hundreds of institutions worldwide.

We welcomed people from 13 nations, making this a truly international Conference.  Timetablers from the University of British Columbia – relatively new customers and first-timers at Conference – were our furthest-travelled regional customers; but Darren Woodward, Exam & Timetable Services Manager at the University of Auckland, took the long-haul crown – a welcome representative from our APAC region, and a voice of authority on centralised timetabling at large tertiary institutions.

It’s called the User Conference for a reason: it’s all about the users.  That might sound trite, but if we did nothing more than put the users of our products in a room together once a year, there would still be a whole heap of positive outcomes.   Needless to say we do a fair bit more than that, but the point stands: the opportunity for our customers to talk and learn from each other is paramount; the Conference is primarily about timetablers inspiring one another and sharing good practice.

To facilitate this networking, we have long breaks – and lots of them: 40 minutes between sessions in the morning and afternoon; an hour-and-a-half for lunch; and down-time before and after dinner for our customers, technology partners and Scientia staff to simply connect.  We always have available drop-in spaces for people to use as they need; and where we know customers are facing similar issues, we introduce them.  One customer has suggested we could further improve knowledge transfer by inviting questions beforehand, leading to themed discussion groups to be held during the breaks.  Certainly something to consider for next year.

Presentations

Amongst all this frivolous socialising, our Steering Committee somehow managed to shoehorn in 19 user-led presentations, 12 Scientia product-focussed sessions and a Keynote from Mark Stewart, Microsoft’s Education Business Partnership Lead.  Titled Embracing Education Trends with a Growth Mindset, Mark’s talk broadened out the Conference theme by looking at the trends which are likely to affect and influence us over the coming years, both as timetablers and software developers.  A video of that presentation will be available soon.  Our relationship with Microsoft is already deeply embedded, and we look forward to working with them ever more closely as we develop our Cloud-based scheduling solutions.

With such a wide range of user presentations it wouldn’t be fair (or possible) to highlight the ‘best’.  By numbers, though, the most popular user-led sessions were:

  1. Avoiding War in the Workplace – Paul Brierley, Uni of Manchester
  2. Say That Again, I Dare You! – Scott Rosie, Uni of Edinburgh
  3. What Constitutes a Good Timetable? – Joanne Mitchell, Queen’s University Belfast
  4. Exam Scheduler 3 Implementation at the University of Southampton – Jackie Lupton
  5. Fully Scheduled Nursing Timetables: Post-Transplant Pain Management – Paul Sweetman, City University

That the two most popular sessions were about dealing with the difficulties of being a university timetabler says a lot about what delegates value about the Conference: it’s a place to air frustrations and, hopefully, find new ways to deal with the inherent complexities of scheduling at large institutions.

Suffice it to say that no-one is more impressed than us by the innovative ways our scheduling solutions are used.  Scientia customers can now access all the presenters’ slide decks through our User Forum.  Once again, our most sincere thanks to the institutions and presenters whose sessions make the Conference what it is.


The User Conference isn’t just for existing customers: it is a great opportunity for institutions who might be considering implementing Scientia’s timetabling and resource management solutions to find out more about our products and services, and hear first-hand from users about how it has helped them to better manage their time and space. Tatjana Duskevic is Timetabling Services Manager at the Royal College of Arts (RCA).  The College is currently considering automating its timetabling and resource-management, and Tatjana – a former user and ardent fan of Scientia’s solutions – had come along to learn about recent product developments.  Tatjana said:

“I truly believe that Scientia makes the best timetabling software on the planet.  I say this having also used CMISSITS, and Cubia (a bespoke solution create for Greenwich School of Management – now a Scientia customer) over the last 11 years at different HE institutions in London.  I can honestly say that none can match Scientia’s products for stability, flexibility and usability.”

“Scientia’s core Syllabus Plus scheduling engine is mature and well-supported, which is reassuring for institutions looking for a timetabling solution; but it was refreshing to hear in the Roadmap presentation that the next-gen scheduling engine – already in development – will be a Cloud-based product.  It was extremely worthwhile coming here to see how Scientia is progressing and to find out how other users apply the software at their institutions.”

Of course, the software itself is only half of the story.  Another benefit of coming to the Scientia User Conference is the opportunity to have face-to-face support or product demonstrations in the Demo Room.  Natalie Bruce, Support Team Leader, said:

“From a Support perspective, Conference is a key opportunity for the whole Team to put faces to names.  We might speak to a customer hundreds of times over the life of a contract, so it’s important for us to know who we’re talking to.  Having the chance to unpick issues with people face-to-face in the Demonstration Area was also highly rewarding.”

Were you there?  Share your thoughts – email us: conference@scientia.com; we are accepting completed Feedback Forms until the end of April.  We are always looking for ways to improve the Conference.  If you think you could make a difference, join our 2017 Conference Steering Committee!

See our photos from the event.  Until next year…

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