CELCAT Timetabler  8 features some useful enhancements to Group Policy. 

Group Policy dynamically creates subgroups according to established rules and populates them with students from the parent group (the group for which a policy is created). 

Commonly, parent groups are synonymous with the course or module to which students enrol within the student record system.  Through integration, CELCAT pulls in the course or module groups from the student record system as parent groups.  Once students enrol, these are also pulled in at frequent intervals and assigned to parent groups.     

Subgroups are the activity groups (e.g. lectures, seminars, tutorials, etc.) and will usually be exclusive to the timetabling system.

Group Policy dynamically creates these subgroups and manages the membership.  Students added to the parent group are automatically placed into each different type of subgroup, ensuring that every student is a member of one activity group, a lecture, a seminar, a tutorial group and so on.

If necessary, typically when the target size of an activity group is exceeded, additional subgroups are created automatically; as well as extra event templates ready for scheduling by the timetabling team.

These features of Group Policy have been around for a while.

Recent releases of Timetabler  8 improve the control of subgroup membership. 

Users can now use more criteria to balance their subgroup distribution.  For example, ‘Manual’, ‘Custom Fields’ (similarity and difference) and ‘Random’ distribution population styles have been added.

The introduction of Custom Fields means that students are assigned to subgroups according to the content of the selected student record custom field. Where there is available space, a student is assigned to the subgroup which has the most students with similar content in that field.  In practice, this means that students can be grouped based on variety of assessment criteria and the custom fields, of which there are 3 for each student record, offer a great deal of flexibility as to what is defined.  For example, you may want to ensure that better performing students are grouped together.  Conversely, you may prefer that top students are not grouped together, being instead evenly spread across subgroups for an activity.  Using ‘similarity’ or ‘difference’ population style, you can achieve either.

Some institutions will want to decide for themselves the membership of activity groups, so you’ll be pleased to know that we have a ‘Manual’ mode which prevents auto-allocation of students to subgroups. This allows module leaders or course administrators to identify the students who are yet to be assigned to subgroups.  Using the intuitive Timetabler  user interface, a user simply drags a student from the parent group and drops them into a subgroup.  The system will alert you to any issues such as the group target size being exceeded.

If you need to check for group irregularities in your timetable, you can run Verify Group Policy to identify groups that break policy rules, retrieve a list of all unassigned students, or show subgroups that are empty or have no events.

These enhancements to Group Policy reduce the time in managing and validating activity groups.    

You may even consider letting students choose their own activity groups using CELCAT Self-Service Student Allocator, but that’s another blog for another day.