STS Fails Stress Test by Matilda Marozzi

0 Posted by - 17/07/2013 - News

Configuration issues have been blamed for problems with RMIT’s timetabling system on Friday morning.

While timetabling for RMIT’s Business college and the college of Science, Engineering and Health ran smoothly, a number of classes were unavailable when students from the college of Design and Social Context attempted to enrol in classes on the morning of July 12.

A number of students took to social media to express their frustration after student timetabling was unresponsive.

One student reported being hung up on, while others said their emails went unanswered.

Almost one-and-a-half hours after the STS was meant to go live, Timetabling Manager Nicole Eaton sent out an email to affected students saying “courses that have not been accessible this morning will be available at 1pm today”.

However, when Catalyst rang student timetabling on Monday morning a staff member admitted they were still working to resolve some issues.

Four days after the STS went live, second year journalism student Nu Tran was yet to have a full timetable.

“I'm still unable to select a tutorial for my elective, and have had no communication to let me know whether my class is cancelled, full, or in a dimension I cannot access.

“If choosing classes results in frustration, obscenities, and passive aggressive emails to coordinators then there's clearly an issue that needs to be addressed,” she said.

There have been calls for an improved timetabling system at RMIT for some time.

Last year the University began to implement its Timetable Transformation Project in response to a 2011 review into timetabling which found there was “significant additional opportunity … to further enhance, consolidate and streamline the Timetable process”.

STSimage

Figure 2 from the Executive Summary of the RMIT Timetabling Review published in December 2011.

The Timetable Transformation Project aims to centralise operations in an attempt to reduce staff numbers and create a uniform approach to timetabling across the University.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) estimates around 15 timetabling staff have been made redundant in the past year, while existing staff have experienced increased workloads.

NTEU RMIT Branch President Dr Melissa Slee was “not surprised” the new timetabling system was experiencing teething problems.

While the NTEU does not oppose change, Dr Slee says they have concerns about the process of transition.

“We have been campaigning for three years now for

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a proper process for reviewing the problem, consultation, full disclosure, risk managing, all these steps in the managing change process, so when change is happening it’s done with full consultation to avoid, as much as possible, any problems in implementation,” she said.

Dr Slee said RMIT’s management of change had been “abominable”, and while the NTEU has won major changes to the policy they are now trying to ensure changes are legally binding.

She is also concerned academics will be required to do more admin and work longer hours in light of the changes.

Prior to the changes there were staff in each school who would liaise with the central timetabling staff to schedule classes.

This role has been abolished, and now staff are responsible for organising their classes.

The executive summary of the RMIT Timetabling Review published in December 2011 suggests if changes are fully implemented students and staff may be required to attend University well into the evening and on weekends.

“Aligned to 1.4.2 [equitable use of physical assets] the project will address historical staff led practices, which currently concentrate the bulk of Learning and Teaching activity on certain days of the week between certain hours,” the document says.

“Removal of these constraints and a focus on allowing equitable access to facilities will drive a more balanced, diverse and student centric range of Learning and Teaching options.”

The NTEU has concerns for staff and students if extended hours are put into operation.

“Do we want students studying back until 9.30 at night? Well, no,” Dr Slee said.

The new timetabling system does appear to be an improvement on the previous STS. Third year engineering student Mark Eason did his timetabling on Thursday morning.

He says in previous years it had taken him “hours” to do his timetabling, however this year it took him “all of 30 seconds” to select his classes.

The same cannot be said for hundreds of Media and Communications students who spent hours attempting to enrol in classes.

Timetabling Manager Nicole Eaton was contacted for comment but did not get back to Catalyst before publication.

Matilda Marozzi

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