The BBC report highlights the impact soaring inflation and rising fuel costs is having on university students. It focuses on the example of a mature student studying for a paramedic degree. With a 2.5 hour round trip to university every day, her petrol costs have increased by some £120.00 per month.
Will the student be able to absorb these, and other, soaring living costs? Could these extra costs threaten the continuation of her studies?
Post-pandemic, the norms driving timetable construction are being questioned more than ever. What may have been an acceptable timetable two years ago, pre-pandemic, may very well be an unsatisfactory timetable now.
Of course, we acknowledge there are many factors that drive timetable creation, and it may well be impossible to construct a timetable purely driven by the issues affecting students; there must be balance. However, with class requirements ranging drastically across courses, according to some reports from as low as 10 hours a week to 25 hours a week, this may be an area where a university can make some ‘quick and easy wins.’ Combined with HyFlex teaching (which, post-pandemic, universities are well used to now), Automation reduces the need for students to travel and relieves pressure on the estate.
This is where Automation can help. What if you can take an existing timetable and quickly adjust the preferences and constraints that influence the shape of the timetable? For example, two years ago, most students would have preferred an even spread of events over a number of days; perhaps with a guarantee of one free day. But now, with rising costs, to both save on travel and allow more free days to engage in work, students may well prefer a timetable compressed into fewer and longer days.
Using CELCAT automation functionality, more specifically the Templatisation Wizard, we can very quickly convert events into templates. What is a template? How does it differ from an event? We can liken a template to a cooking recipe which includes ingredients and instructions for making a cake, with the finished cake being an event scheduled on a timetable. In this context, a template (which is a set of instructions for the automation engine) is our recipe for creating events (although, uncomfortably for the analogy, it can modify existing events as well).
A template has Name, Duration, Event Category and Department. We should note, a template can have constraints associated with it which supply more detailed instruction to the automation engine. For example: a constraint can specify a start time and a day of the week, which will determine as to when the an event occurs in the timetable. These constraints should not be viewed as properties of the template itself.
Scheduled templates are retained within the application. It’s very simple to view templates and their associated events due to there being a one-to-one relationship between templates and events.
CELCAT Timetabler event
Automation Template derived from the event
We want to take an existing, clash-free timetable and templatise all the events. The templates will be basic ones, as we will exclude all the temporal data (including Day, Start and End times). We then want to configure the automation engine to prioritise inter-template constraints and students’ free days.
The video shows this method in practice using two Group timetables, however there is more than one way to cook an egg and the same applies with automation. There are so many ways to tackle this scenario, it’s impossible to review them all here. If you are interested, you can always reach out to your account manager who’ll be able to discuss the options in more detail with you.
This scenario may sound very complex, however, using the Templatisation wizard and Automation, users can very quickly model a timetable to produce different results. That may well include a timetable that minimises travel time to and from the institution.
From a student’s point of view:
- Less travel means more money staying in their pocket rather than going on fuel.
- A more compressed timetable may provide opportunities to engage in secular work to support themselves as living costs rise.
- Less physical travel will improves the university’s ‘green’ credentials.
The bottom-line is that students may feel more inclined to see their studies out and qualify. No one wants to see students quitting their studies due to inflationary pressures and the escalating cost of living.