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Education Space

 

For definitions of terms used on this page, please see Key Concepts and Definitions

Timeline

February 2018: ESSM project board formed; UIS project manager assigned to project

February 2018-April 2019: project team researched scheduling processes across University, defined scope of solution to be sought, and worked with the Student Registry to simplify process for managing central room bookings

Summer 2019: ESSM tool to go out to tender and senior ESSM project manager to be recruited

Summer 2019: Updated process to be used for central room allocation. Centrally bookable rooms to be managed via Booker; Micad no longer used to book these rooms.

Academic year 2019-20: ESSM tool to be procured

Academic year 2020-21: ESSM tool to be brought into use in the University

Objectives and scope

The ESSM project will enable the University, its Schools and departments to:

  • schedule teaching and exams more easily and efficiently;
  • model the use of education space across the estate in order to support informed strategic decisions about estate development.

The project will improve the scheduling process by procuring a software system – the ESSM tool – to automate one part of it, namely the allocation of rooms (and, in some cases, times) to teaching events. The same system will also permit modelling.

Secondary benefits of the solution are expected to include:

  • integration with room booking. It is expected that the ESSM tool will enable visibility of room availability and automatic booking of rooms in Booker.
  • timetable publishing. It is expected that the ESSM tool will have the capacity to publish timetables for use by students and staff, either within the solution or by integration with other systems across the University.

The ESSM tool will include the following capabilities to ensure maximum flexibility for the University:

  • Import data and export data using agreed formats.
  • APIs to enable easy integration with other University systems

Not in scope

Placements/allocations: it is not a priority for the ESSM tool to be able to allocate students to courses or elective placements. It is possible that the tool might be able to handle these processes, depending on the capabilities of the specific system procured.

‘Central timetabling’: Schools/departments will continue to set their own rules for scheduling as they currently do (indicating preferred times for courses, which courses must not clash, acceptable travel/changeover windows etc). They will also be able to review the draft schedule produced by the ESSM tool and approve it or request changes. It is expected that Schools and departments may be able to use the ESSM tool themselves to run the room allocation process, but how this will work depends on the system procured.

Users

It is expected that the ESSM tool will be available to:

  1. Schools and departments to use for their own scheduling processes;
  2. the Student Registry for managing centrally bookable rooms;
  3. those involved in estates strategy and planning for modelling space needs and the efficient use of space.

What has happened (to June 2019)

A UIS project manager has been working on the ESSM project since February 2018, with help from colleagues in the UIS, departments and schools. The project has:

  • Researched and analysed the scheduling processes used across the University
  • Produced a universal schematic of the scheduling process
  • Defined the scope of the tool that should be sought
  • Investigated the market for such tools and identified potential suppliers

To test the concepts established through their research, and to gain better data about the policy and business changes that will be needed to support full implementation of the ESSM tool, the project team spent part of the academic year 2018-19 working with the Student Registry to simplify the process of managing central room bookings. The revised process, which includes improved spreadsheet design, automated clash checking and export to Booker, is being used for central room allocations in 2019.

The project has moved at a deliberate pace due to the careful and detailed nature of the work, but is making progress towards delivering a system appropriate to the University’s needs for the long term.

Implications for Schools and departments

Departments that use centrally bookable rooms for teaching should see an improvement in their experience of the Student Registry room allocation process, which should become quicker and more user-friendly. These departments will have to make some minor changes to their way of submitting requests: comprehensive information on this has been provided directly to those affected.

Centrally bookable rooms are being moved to Booker in summer 2019 and bookings through Micad are being withdrawn. Departments that use centrally bookable rooms regularly will still request these through the annual allocation process. They should be able, once the allocation process is complete, to manage their bookings in Booker. Other departments will need to use Booker rather than Micad to request and book centrally bookable rooms from Michaelmas 2019.

Once the ESSM tool is in place, departments will not (initially) be obliged to use it, but it will be available for them to use. The tool will fully integrate with the University’s room booking system, Booker and any department wishing to use the tool and integrate it with room booking should adopt Booker.

To support the modelling of education space across the estate, all Departments will be required to submit their scheduling data, in a consistent format to a common deadline, to the University to enable comprehensive modelling of all education space use. More details on this will follow in the coming months.

Any institution considering purchasing a scheduling tool in the next couple of years should first contact the ESSM project team on essm@admin.cam.ac.uk to discuss their requirements.