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MIS Systems Thread, Can you do a complex timetable in Nova T6 in Technical; Some of you may be aware of my issues at work and you can see the forum with the issues ...
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    Can you do a complex timetable in Nova T6

    Some of you may be aware of my issues at work and you can see the forum with the issues I have been having.

    I wanted to know how you do your timetable as my manager thinks the only way to do a decent timetable is to do it all by hand and then manually put it onto Nova. Nova is rubbish and cannot produce a decent timetable.

    However I spoke to Capita about this and they told me that it's due to lack of understanding of Nova T6 that people think this way and that you can do a decent timetable without using pen and paper.

    I just wanted to know your opinions on this and also any suggestions in how I can learn timetabling and Nova T6 that does not cost me money and that I don't have to go to a training course in working hours

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    LosOjos's Avatar
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    Of course you can do your timetable without ever picking up a pen and paper, it's just personal preference. A timetable can become a very, very complicated thing though and many people find some physical representation easier to work with (pins, string and cork board!). It's preference.

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    Read the Nova manual from end to end, it's not nice but it's free.
    It can do a very complex timetable, but you'll start with a simple one then tweak it.

    Capita are right, lots of people start the dark art in dark corners with pen(cil) and paper and do it all at home. I'm not sure of your woes elsewhere, but as a newbie, you need to have a good understanding of the curriculum, staffing and resources.

    Usually a lot of this info is in the head of the timetabler, along with , 'bob can't do wed avo cos he does rugby training in northampton', and 'alice teaches art but can do IT if we're desperate'.

    If you create all new staff, assign them to departments and default rooms, set up all the subjects and courses, and create a decent model in Nova it will attempt to give you some good fits for the data.

    Yes you can do it by hand, but why not let it do some of the hard work for you. Put in the things you know, e.g. PE always happens on a monday morning, and no-one likes maths last thing friday and lock them in place. There are rules like only 1 subject occurrence per day etc. But you can slacken them as you need.

    There used to be a good book by Optimus publishing on timetabling with Nova, and there is also a seminal works on timetabling i forget who it's by.
    You can also consider Timetabler which a lot of people prefer and talks to SIMS, but all of these options are extra cost.

    Remember though that unless your subjects, subject staff numbers, or resources (class/labs etc.) have changed drastically, most parts of the timetable are going to be the same as last year. The big changes are in Y10 and Y12 with options. But, Y11 and Y13 will most likely remain pretty much unchanged, unless the new A level system causes issues with the two types of A level - don't really know how it works.

    You could clone the existing timetable file and have a play and see what happens. You can't break anything, so long as you don't send it back to SIMS. There are a heap of reports built-in to tell you about clashes and things that don't work.

    Edit: the 'bible' (well one of them!)is actually by Keith Johnson, the guy behind Timetabler: http://www.timetabler.com/book.html [not free]

    http://www.timetabler.com/PDFs/White...Your-Timetable [free]

    There are a few free resources out there.
    Last edited by vikpaw; 26th November 2013 at 11:37 AM.

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    chrisateen (26th November 2013), eean (26th November 2013)

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    What are the advantages of timetabler over nova t?

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    This is a problem that can only be solved from the top. Constructing a timetable is a great intellectual challenge and therefore enjoyable but it takes many weeks of solid work usual the expense of doing something less rewarding. Computers can create excellent timetables in for complex requirements minutes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eean View Post
    What are the advantages of timetabler over nova t?
    There are some things noted on their website.
    Apparently, it is pretty with colours and easier to use / understand.
    We moved away from it to using Nova because i preferred to have it all on the same system and it's easier to keep in sync with changes.
    We've not had any major issues with Nova, it can do some pretty complex things.
    Last edited by vikpaw; 26th November 2013 at 12:27 PM. Reason: fatal apostrophe error

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    Timetabling is a bit of a black art, and most timetablers evolve their own methods of working over time which can seem weird and downright illogical to someone who is just thinking "Do it on the computer". Its also difficult for a timetabler who has been doing it a while to change their approach,(for example by shifting software) because they are focussed on writing a successful timetable and time spent learning new software is seen as wasted or introducing extra work. You often find that schools only switch software/strategies when they get a new timetabler.

    To answer your question though, I use Nova and find it perfectly adequate:we are medium sized secondary which has been through new builds, and school amalgamations in the last few years. There isn't anything we have had to implement that it won't do, although some creative thinking can be required. But I also make extensive use of spreadsheets and almost always have to resort to pieces of coloured card on a wall at some stage.
    If you want to learn Nova the only way to really learn it is to actually construct a timetable, and a good starting point is to take the current timetable and replicate it starting from scratch - this will get you familiar with the screens and it avoids having to focus on the scheduling part, which is the hard bit. If you are going to actually write a new timetable, an understanding of the concepts involved and the preparatory work required is vital. I would strongly recommend a course, but the Keith Johnson book mentioned by VikPaw is very useful and easy to follow.

    As to the Nova/Timetabler debate, I think Timetabler is updated more often, with new features added, then Nova is, and has a more colourful and configurable interface. But it costs. If you are a SIMS school, Nova is already there.

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    vikpaw (26th November 2013)

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    CAM
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    In the words of one of my deputy head bosses before I started Nova training:

    If you can learn and understand timetabling, you become a very valuable asset to any school.
    Start with understanding how subjects are arranged in blocks and how teachers and other resources are assigned. Then you can go into bands, sub-bands, alternative curriculums, cross-band blocks and other more advanced bits and pieces. When the basic framework is assembled, press a button and Nova tries to fit it together. I say try because it won't do it first time, it will take a few goes and teachers will come to you at the last minute with changes and no real idea how timetabling works, but Nova will get there and let you make changes rapidly.

    I should add that if you use Nova, ensure the course levels are correct as this will have an impact on the census.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CAM View Post
    In the words of one of my deputy head bosses before I started Nova training:



    Start with understanding how subjects are arranged in blocks and how teachers and other resources are assigned. Then you can go into bands, sub-bands, alternative curriculums, cross-band blocks and other more advanced bits and pieces. When the basic framework is assembled, press a button and Nova tries to fit it together. I say try because it won't do it first time, it will take a few goes and teachers will come to you at the last minute with changes and no real idea how timetabling works, but Nova will get there and let you make changes rapidly.

    I should add that if you use Nova, ensure the course levels are correct as this will have an impact on the census.
    What your deputy head said is true and hence why I have a problem where I am

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    Constructing a timetable is a great intellectual challenge and therefore enjoyable
    It also requires you to have several boxes of paracetamal too hand! (Or maybe that's just me....)

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    Quote Originally Posted by vikpaw View Post
    Read the Nova manual from end to end, it's not nice but it's free.
    It can do a very complex timetable, but you'll start with a simple one then tweak it.

    Capita are right, lots of people start the dark art in dark corners with pen(cil) and paper and do it all at home. I'm not sure of your woes elsewhere, but as a newbie, you need to have a good understanding of the curriculum, staffing and resources.

    Usually a lot of this info is in the head of the timetabler, along with , 'bob can't do wed avo cos he does rugby training in northampton', and 'alice teaches art but can do IT if we're desperate'.

    If you create all new staff, assign them to departments and default rooms, set up all the subjects and courses, and create a decent model in Nova it will attempt to give you some good fits for the data.

    Yes you can do it by hand, but why not let it do some of the hard work for you. Put in the things you know, e.g. PE always happens on a monday morning, and no-one likes maths last thing friday and lock them in place. There are rules like only 1 subject occurrence per day etc. But you can slacken them as you need.

    There used to be a good book by Optimus publishing on timetabling with Nova, and there is also a seminal works on timetabling i forget who it's by.
    You can also consider Timetabler which a lot of people prefer and talks to SIMS, but all of these options are extra cost.

    Remember though that unless your subjects, subject staff numbers, or resources (class/labs etc.) have changed drastically, most parts of the timetable are going to be the same as last year. The big changes are in Y10 and Y12 with options. But, Y11 and Y13 will most likely remain pretty much unchanged, unless the new A level system causes issues with the two types of A level - don't really know how it works.

    You could clone the existing timetable file and have a play and see what happens. You can't break anything, so long as you don't send it back to SIMS. There are a heap of reports built-in to tell you about clashes and things that don't work.

    Edit: the 'bible' (well one of them!)is actually by Keith Johnson, the guy behind Timetabler: http://www.timetabler.com/book.html [not free]

    http://www.timetabler.com/PDFs/White...Your-Timetable [free]

    There are a few free resources out there.
    Just to let you know that I bought that book by Keith Johnson which arrived to me this morning. Just starting to read the first few pages and already Nova T6 is starting to make more sense. Thanks for the advice and soon hoping to be able to construct my own timetable

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    If you get good at it, I am told that you can make a good second income as timetable writer for schools that don't have their own.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by chrisateen View Post
    Just to let you know that I bought that book by Keith Johnson which arrived to me this morning. Just starting to read the first few pages and already Nova T6 is starting to make more sense. Thanks for the advice and soon hoping to be able to construct my own timetable
    Cool. good luck :O)
    The NT6 manual is really useful too, i always forget the keys you have to combine with the mouse to change period allocation / or to quickly combine blocks, remove teachers. So worth having a copy downloaded to your desktop that you can search.
    You can always come and scream here if you get stuck.

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