If you teach on City Campus and use Central Timetabling, you’ll be well versed in the way it works. The following pretty much summarises it (minus the many complexities, of course):
👉 Your School is contacted
️️🏛️ They ask you to pass on your requirements
🔄 These are fed into the system
🌟 CTS constructs the timetable and makes it available
💬 You report anything that needs to change (maybe happens)
📄 A different version is provided (if the above takes place)
📅 Voilà, you have your teaching timetable
Now, time to crouch over your desk and laboriously add it to your Outlook email calendar, so you have a version that works for you. Oh, the joy…
In April, Lesley Sinclair (Director of Registry) reached out to let you all know about a new service launch that will take that manual practice out of your busy hands and convert it into an automated process. This service, more accurately described as an enhancement to your current Central Timetabling one, is called Timetabling into Calendar (TIC for short, just because who doesn’t like an acronym?).
Essentially, this extra step is being added into the usual workflow: ➡️ Push timetable into academics’ email calendar.
TIC is a technical integration between the University’s Central Timetabling and email systems. It automatically adds each academics’ central teaching timetable to their Outlook calendar for them.
How will I benefit?
This time-saving service removes the need for any manual work at your end and allows you to view your teaching timetable within the context of your overall work schedule, instantly.
When is it happening?
TIC will be pushed out shortly after the official release of the central timetable. At present, we expect to activate the service on Monday 07 August, at which point your teaching activities will start to sync down to you within 5 days, in plenty of time for the start of the new academic session.
The Central Timetabling System is the information source of the one-way feed created by TIC. This means the system itself needs to be updated for a change to successfully apply to your Outlook calendar – so even if you edit an appointment and it appears to have taken, it will revert back when TIC next refreshes (every 15 mins).
That’s why you need to contact the Central Timetabling Team, through your School’s Timetabling contact, by email with your change requests. They’ll adjust the information at the top-level as swiftly as possible and this will push seamlessly down into your calendar, again at the next refresh of the feed.
The beauty of it is this – you know the information you’re looking at is accurate because let’s face it, anything manual comes with the risk of error. Typing in the wrong room number or date can lead to lost teaching time and no end of hassle trying to figure out where you really should be, when.
TIC is set to launch early August, just in time for the 2017/18 session. The technical solution will benefit the University’s thriving community of academic staff. Who says, you might ask? A group of academics in the School of Education & Social Work took part in the pilot and welcome it with open arms. They were more than happy to share their experience with you all, but first, here’s a bit of background.
What took so long?
Many have asked for a function like this since the arrival of Central Timetabling in 2010-11. Richard Holme, Lecturer in Education, was one staff member keen to see a “more user friendly” approach introduced, sooner rather than later.
The University’s software supplier for timetabling made a new application available last year. “Until then, bringing this integration to life was not as simple as you might think” says Lesley, whose team drove this initiative and are pleased to finally make it a reality. The project was described as a “great example of working together” by Central Timetabling Manager, Steven Boarder because implementing and trialling the service was made possible with the help of UoD IT (Student Systems Team) and a group of around 100 willing early adopters.
Feedback from some of the pilot group
“I feel as if someone listened to me” says Richard, who can now use his Outlook calendar more effectively. He went on to explain that “Lesley has been phenomenally supportive” and that TIC has made a “massive difference” to his work-life experience, saving him 8 hours of tedious activity annually. This type of feedback was echoed by many, many more.
I found the synchronisation of the timetable with my electronic diary extremely helpful. It ensured that I didn’t miss meetings or lectures, and it also was very useful for confirming a room change that may have occurred. Knowing that my diary is synched to the central timetable is reassuring that the information is up-to-date.
There are times when I have ended up with 2 entries (one I have put in myself, and then the same meeting/input appears from central timetabling). In these cases, I have kept my own entry as well as the central timetabling one, as I can amend it to give me more specific information. It is very easy to see that you are not double-booked, however, and that one is the ‘official’ entry and the other is yours.
I think that the more we all use our electronic diaries, the easier it becomes to schedule meetings, etc. using the electronic diaries.Paola Sangster
With regards to the Outlook Calendar/Central Timetabling initiative, it meant that because I had enabled notifications on my phone, I could simply look at the screen to double check which room I was in. This was especially useful if there had been last minute changes or I had quite a few classes back-to-back.
Having my calendar online also meant that I could easily share it with colleagues so that we could find a time to meet which was mutually convenient.Linda Lapere
I enjoyed my pilot experience and thought TIC was a great answer immediately. It was a delight to have something else do what I have to do laboriously myself for the start of academic session. I’ve saved a lot of administration time (~10 hours) and have peace of mind that there are no mistakes when I check my calendar.
Would I recommend it? Yes, to everybody. Whatever they might think, it will definitely save them time and us pilot users are here to help if they need it.Lucy Golden
Having my teaching automatically uploaded to my electronic calendar is a real time saver. It is reassuring to know that the students see the same date, time and room as I do and that I may not have inadvertently written something in the wrong slot.
I still like to transfer times to my paper diary, but at least now I only need to write it down once. It’s important to remember that you need to communicate any changes to central timetabling rather than changing the calendar manually (as it will revert back to the previous version when the system is updated). That is so easy to do – just an email to timetabling and they make any required changes in a very short timeframe.
I would hate to go back to the old way of manual inputting!Carrie McLennan
The majority of my job is teaching, so having an accurate calendar I can reach on my phone is important to me. I teach ~15 hours a week and doing the manual move of my timetable into my Outlook email took around an entire day in July, plus time spent making changes thereafter. Having TIC automatically do that instead was great.
It really has saved me hours of time that I now spend on things that benefit students. All I need to add to my calendar are things that don’t relate to actively teaching, so I would absolutely recommend it. When I need to make a change to my timetable I contact the Timetabling Team, and Jenni has been so efficient at applying them each and every time – she’s fantastic and that is key to TICs success.Tara Harper
I feel as if it has made a massive difference to mine, and other staff lives. It is a very, very useful service – far more user-friendly than viewing my timetable in Central Timetabling. We can use ‘busy search’ to set up appointments because we are able to use Outlook far more effectively.
The benefits for me are it: saves time, reduces workload and admin, made me feel more in control and of course, it means there are greater opportunities to utilise Outlook in future.
I would definitely recommend the service to others because it is very simple, and would say do not panic about the issues it may cause, go with it, feedback those issues and they will be resolved.
This is a good example of senior staff listening, and thinking about the end user.Richard Holme
Andy Ross, IT Service Delivery Manager (Student Systems) said: “this is the type of functionality everyone expects to be there already, but I’m glad we could work well between departments to introduce it to teaching colleagues. Hopefully, it makes things just a little bit easier”. More improvements are on their way for many of these services and your suggestions are often what trigger them to happen, so keep them coming.
“I have really found this new system efficient, and a great help in managing and organizing my overall timetable. I appreciate the opportunity to pass on my thoughts. ” says Wendee White, Lecturer in Education. The fact TIC has been tested by academics, for academics gives added confidence that it will be taken up well by the rest of the community come roll out day.
The entire delivery team would like to extend their sincerest thanks to those involved in the pilot – “you really have been instrumental in this move toward excellence in administration”, notes Lesley, who will continue to champion service enhancements that help people do the work they do at the University.