Background

As a specialist, high quality, land-based college, Hadlow College offers a huge range of courses to suit the needs of many different students. Graded at their last inspection as ‘outstanding’, Hadlow College prides itself on making all students feel welcome and secure in what is a fantastic learning environment. Hadlow College is the only college in Kent to be both Ofsted ‘outstanding’ and an LSIS Beacon provider.

The college’s main site and administrative headquarters are based in Hadlow, a beautiful village in the heart of the Kent countryside, near Tonbridge.

Additional campuses are found in Kent at Canterbury and in South East London at Mottingham and Greenwich.

Hadlow College has just over 1,200 full-time students studying up to Level 3 (Extended Diploma) and over 600 Higher Education Students studying up to Level 6. In addition, every year the college enrols over 1,000 part-time students across all campuses, on a range of part time options, from apprenticeships, to Saturday workshops.

In addition, Hadlow College has visiting school pupils, who attend the college one day a week to study land-based qualifications whilst still at school. These pupils are aged between 15 and 19 and at any time the college works in conjunction with 25 schools to provide training for these young people.

210 students live onsite in Hadlow, either at the main Campus, or in the student residential centre at Grove Farm, near Hadlow. 

Project Summary

A decision that many CELCAT users must decide is which system should drive the process of generating registers; the timetabling system or management information system?

This is the decision Hadlow College faced.

The College’s Management Information System (MIS), whilst perfectly capable of recording the learner story from start to finish, lacked a sophisticated timetabling tool which is why Hadlow College selected CELCAT Timetabler. The perception of the college though was that the MIS had to mirror the college timetable in order to generate registers. This presented a challenge. CELCAT Timetabler flexibly allows for many permutations to an event, whereas the MIS is comparatively rigid in this regard. Any variations in timetabled events (e.g. different room for a week of the term) often caused the MIS major headaches in recording the change whilst keeping the integrity of registers intact.

The standard plugin supported by CELCAT and the MIS vendor was rapidly becoming no longer fit for purpose. For example, the plugin had to be run on-demand. This meant that the registers were only created/updated once the plugin data transfer had been completed. It also meant someone had to be disciplined to run it every day!

Another challenge that Hadlow College faced was encouraging tutors to engage with an electronic registers system and mark registers in a timely fashion. The MIS provided a single approach to this via a web-based interface that wasn’t particularly user-friendly. There was no workflow for escalating incomplete registers to heads of department. This meant that the MIS team were constantly chasing tutors to mark registers in a system they disliked. 

Solution

Hadlow College and CELCAT embarked on a project to implement the CELCAT Attendance and CELCAT SIM (Systems Integration Manager) modules as well as some additional components to add value.

Why did Hadlow College select CELCAT Attendance and CELCAT SIM? The main reasons were:

  • CELCAT Attendance integrates seamlessly with CELCAT Timetabler; the register is kept in step with the timetabling system even if the time, rooming or staffing changed for some of the event weeks
  • CELCAT Attendance offers additional register marking tools
    • Online: both desktop and, later, mobile browser user interfaces
    • Offline: Hadlow is a land-based college and some registers needed to be marked outside of Wi-Fi range
  • CELCAT Notification triggers a workflow to escalate a list of tutor’s overdue registers to heads of department
  • CELCAT SIM can be installed and configured to run unattended and, at the intense period of the academic year, function in near real-time
  • CELCAT SIM imports learners and enrolment status and start/end dates to ensure that registers accurately reflect the learner record; especially important for returns and funding 

Benefits

Because the integration between timetabling and registers is seamless, Hadlow dramatically reduced the time it took to reconcile systems.

The addition of offline marking methods meant that the college could invest in some inexpensive and robust card readers that could be taken anywhere to mark registers. Tutors simply handed the devices back at the end of the day and the marks were synchronised with the CELCAT system. This again reduced the workload of administrative staff to enter marks.

The online registers system permits the tutors to not only access their own registers quickly but also view their own and other timetables in real-time. These extra services for tutors improved the engagement of the new system and the training sessions were well attended and favourably received.

The notification of overdue registers and escalation workflow, has resulted in an improvement in completed register, with the college achieving a rate of 99.7% for 2014/15 and 100% on 34,000 registers for 2016/17.

The switch from an on-demand plugin to CELCAT SIM has reduced the maintenance overhead of IT Services and MIS. The integration runs unattended and the only time it is touched is when the timetable is rolled-over for the next academic year.