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Strategic Planning: The Timetabler’s Role

July 14, 2020

The process of building an educational or training timetable year-on-year is challenging at the best of times. If you are involved with timetabling in Universities and Colleges, now more than ever, you are being asked to take on an increased role within strategic planning. The question is, how well are the tools at your disposal equipping you to confront this task? For example, when adding new programs, changing modes of delivery, or when social distancing needs throw you a curve-ball…

An article recently published in the THE highlighted the difficulties universities are facing. It suggests that traditional university planning processes are struggling to keep pace. What is needed are planning tools that are flexible enough to respond to constant ongoing changes, and can develop an optimal plan of activity without weeks of work.

In an opinion piece in the Guardian, a variety of converging concerns have led to a rather dramatic headline. Having said that, it highlights that the university and college sectors are wrestling with many new constraints, of which social distancing is just one, and may not be the most testing. When it comes to organising a teaching timetable during this current crisis, what happened last year is not going to cut it, not even parts of it. The upshot is a complete revision of the timetable, and as new issues present, this is likely to be ongoing. The timetable will be a working document, not something that can be defined for a year, or term.

Even at the best of times, when it comes to a complete timetable revision, it can be a real challenge.

Academia has been wrestling with this problem for many years. For along time it seemed to defy all efforts to develop a genuine solution to this complex problem, one that normal people could use.

But not anymore…

Thankfully there now is a tool that fulfils this ongoing and burgeoning need. EventMAP provides campus modelling capability through use of ‘Planner’ functionality within OPTIME.

As with all OPTIME functionality, leading edge UX design is engaged to help capture important coding criteria and to frame the questions being posed, for example:

  1. How can I use my space more effectively given the new national guidelines?
  2. How will this impact quality on the rest of the curriculm delivery?

OPTIME then engages leading edge research-based algorithms to generate highly visual scenarios, ensuring timetabling managers can answer these and similar strategic questions in short periods of time.

Therefore, OPTIME is a platform that can both manage timetables from year to year, as well as inject all important planning capability as and when the need arises. The OPTIME platform can therefore be considered a real game-changer in how organisations plan and manage data in delivering teaching and addressing key strategic questions.

This modular SaaS environment is currently proving itself, as universities and colleges around the world are using its advanced heuristics to model and plan for the new academic year. This is particularly relevant at this time with all of the unknowns that the recent Pandemic has raised.

To demonstrate the platforms flexibility, it is being used to model environments as diverse as policing, administration and healthcare, as well as post secondary education.

Current projects we are involved in relate to the issues arising from the SARS Cov 2 (Covid-19 Coronavirus) pandemic. Universities particularly are having to manage a whole range of issues that will affect course delivery for some time to come. The difficulties are compounded by the fact that things are constantly changing.

  1. What impact will travel restrictions have on the student population, particularly when considering international students?
  2. How will the university manage activities in the event of a localised lockdown?
  3. Although some teaching lends itself to remote teaching via video conferencing, some students prefer the campus experience, so how do universities manage a mix of teaching modalities?

It is little wonder then that a number of universities are discovering what the OPTIME Timetabler and Planner tools can do to assist in the current predicament. Why not discover for yourself how the OPTIME platform of applications can help you meet your timetabling challenges, whatever your issues. Search for more information.


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