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University of Surrey updates student timetables with cloud

The University of Surrey has integrated Advanced Learning’s cloud-based CMISGo solution into its information management system so it can deliver timetable updates to students via their mobile phones.

The solution ensures students’ timetables are up to date with last-minute changes  – particularly the large number made just before the academic year starts – and cuts down on the amount of paper used by the organisation.

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Supplied by technology firm Advanced Learning, the CMISGo application allows customised timetables to be delivered to the university’s 13,000 students.

Harri Ap Rees, deputy registrar and director of student administration at the university, says the university has had CMISgo since 2002, but updates to student timetables originally had to be sent via email.

“It was a very manual process,” he says. “It’s important to give the students the right options with timetabling before they arrive so they can make their plans.”

He adds that in the first few weeks after arrival, students can swap around their options, depending on what classes and subjects they want to attend. “We have a system that enables us to timetable, but all of the information they were getting came as hard copy.”

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To tackle the issue, the university integrated CMISGo into its current information management system, which produces and manages the course timetables for the institution’s 400+ courses.

It has resulted in eliminating more than 260,000 paper documents as course details can now be delivered to students’ mobile phones.

“Timetable packs could be up to 20 pages long in hard-copy format. They took an inordinate amount of time to produce without factoring in any changes to course schedules,” says Ap Rees.

The most important thing about this new timetable delivery is the level of personalisation the students receive.

One of the main reasons the implementation was needed was to ensure student’s had the information they needed to make informed choices about their courses and have instantaneous updates about timetable and room changes.

“The demand came from students and from us and our concern that competitors are already doing this.” explains Ap Rees.

The cloud-based solution now means that students can check their timetable anywhere at any time, something the modern student has come to expect as standard.

The decision to move to mobile timetables was widely backed by the student union, which is pushing for text alerts and online room booking as a next step.

“In terms of the future there is a facility to text-message,” says Ap Rees.

Currently the university uses Tribal’s SITS student record system, which does offer a timetabling solution but not one suited to the university’s needs.

It plans to keep an eye on this in the future, as having one solution to address both timetabling and student records would be more efficient in the long term. Currently the transfer of data from SITS to the timetabling system is still a manual process.

The university’s digital transformation over the last few years has been huge.

“Over five years now we’ve got online registration, students can choose their modules online, there are lots of forms students can submit if they want to withdraw or change modules, if they want to suspend their studies,” Aps Rees explains.

“There’s already quite a lot that is online and we have a strategy that we’re trying to move more and more self-service for students and academics online.”

By making more of these processes paperless, the university hopes to reduce the number of its administrators. “Then we can focus our resources in academic staff to give more support to students,” says Aps Rees.


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