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MIS Systems Thread, TimeTabler and SIMS in Technical; It is a pity that you are so far away as I could then easily show you the merits of ...
  1. #16
    Sivadam's Avatar
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    It is a pity that you are so far away as I could then easily show you the merits of NT6.
    I appreciate that you have seen demos etc. but to dismiss it without actually seeing it in action in a school seems quite strange.

    As to the logic - in the dim and distant past I seem to remember being a Head of Science (and a Timetabler at the same time!). The logic was obviously there but so was the capacity to think outside the box, to solve the solutions to problems that surface in (all) Timetable construction.

    And, as to the control you have in using the NT6 software, then you can have as much as you want. I do not use automatic scheduling until the vast majority of my timetable has been scheduled - there are far too many variables in terms of offsite provision for vocational courses that have to match the times these are available with the external providers and with the various blocking patterns that different departments want. For these reasons much of my timetabling has to be manual (but in NT6)!

    I actually pre-date any computer Timetabling, in my case it was a magnetic A3 board technique (so I could see ALL the timetable in a single view). The appearance of Nova DOS was my first experience of PC Timetabling. I then no longer had to balance 3 timetables in my head at once - Staff, Pupils and Rooms (but I still actually have all this in mind when I am producing the curriculum plans in NT6).

    Whatever you choose to do I wish you all the best in your new venture. Should you have any difficulties then I am always available via SupportNet, as are many others who are experienced NT6 users! I know that this facility is very useful to NT6 users as those who pose problems can get a different opinions on the way to solve issues. There are often several ways of resolving a Timetable problem and the help of a variety of experienced timetablers is often invaluable in finding the solution that best suits your needs.
    Last edited by Sivadam; 2nd May 2010 at 10:29 AM.

  2. #17

    vikpaw's Avatar
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    We moved away from Timetabler to NovaT6 at my insistence, and the timetabler is still getting to grips with it, it's a slow and steady battle.
    One thing that is apparently lacking, but i would love to be shown i am wrong, is the availability of a combing chart. Not a timetabler, so not too sure what it's purpose is, but it's something to do with scheduling and finding the best fit, which Timetabler does (did for us), but we now can't do with NT6...

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    You could also try FET (Free Evolutionary timetabler) and not pay a penny. - FET - Free Timetabling Software

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    vikpaw - I am interested to know why you moved from Timetabler to NovaT. What it because there was something that Timetabler couldn't do that you needed, or was it due to other external pressures? I have seen a few comments about the lack of combing charts in NovaT6 (from what I can tell they were in NovaT4), and there absence (as they seem a very sensible checking process) is another reason why I was considering Timetabler.

    garrysaddington - I looked at FET but as far as I could tell there was no way to get the timetable from FET into SIMS.net which meant ti would not work for us...

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by andykemp View Post
    I looked at FET but as far as I could tell there was no way to get the timetable from FET into SIMS.net which meant ti would not work for us...
    When you generate the timetable it outputs a .csv file which *should* be enough to import. However, I don't know SIMS so someone else may be able to provide the import spec.

  6. #21

    vikpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andykemp View Post
    vikpaw - I am interested to know why you moved from Timetabler to NovaT. What it because there was something that Timetabler couldn't do that you needed, or was it due to other external pressures? I have seen a few comments about the lack of combing charts in NovaT6 (from what I can tell they were in NovaT4), and there absence (as they seem a very sensible checking process) is another reason why I was considering Timetabler.
    hi andy,

    my predecessor was in charge of some aspects of sims, but wasn't the timetabler, and at this stage we used Timetabler, and had only just begun to start using SIMS for things like reports, which requires a timetable. For two years running the import into SIMs from Timetabler didnt work and the timetable needed putting in manually which was a real put off. I believe these issues are now sorted but, as nobody wants to fiddle with the timetable, and we had to have it in SIMS, it seemed easier to use NovaT.

    add to that, we used NovaT at my previous school, so i already had some experience, and it was really a no brainer for us, merely for convenience, if nothing else. We do lose some functions, and last year the timetabler duplicated the timetable into Timetabler in order to get decent printouts, with colours and everything else he was used to. He may well have created the first drafts in Timetabler before moving them to NT6.

    i have posted elsewhere, here and on supportnet regarding features we struggle with, so look around to see what others think.

    we don't use Nova to it's full potential (yet!), and we do some things wrong, we also really miss some Timetabler functions, but overall, we felt it just made sense to use the integrated package alongside SIMS.

    if you find Timetabler easier to use, and cheaper, i'd go for it. especially if you have support to help you if anything goes wrong, and your IT guy seems to be willing to support your decision

    what i would suggest is that at the same time, try and have a play with NT6, and get to grips with it in your own time, learn what the limitations are as well as what you can use it for.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikpaw View Post
    and your IT guy seems to be willing to support your decision
    Thanks, Vik, for my in-advertent promotion! I'm just the humble SIMS Manager. However, I've worked in SIMS support for 18 years, on and off - even before Capita bought it! In all my years as a consultant, before settling down in one place, I've never known a school using SIMS which didn't use either SIMS Timetable (which I understand was awful!) or its successor, Nova-T (which they all told me was brilliant!)

    This is why I feel I'm being taken out of my comfort zone. It's my job to make sure that the Cover Officers have all the correct data they need, that the - very extensive - Assessment Manager and Profiles 7 structures I've put in place work correctly and the Curriculum Assignment processes operate like clockwork. All this relies on the timetable being efficiently maintained (something I would certainly trust Andy with) and smoothly imported into SIMS (this is the bit that still slightly concerns me).

    My gut feeling, based on my background, is that we have Nova-T6 and SIMS.net working very nicely from my point of view, thank you, so why fix a clock that ain't broken? However, it's not I that has to learn how to create a timetable for the first time and not I who has to satisfy the requirements of a large and very diverse set of departments. This thread has been very useful for me in broadening my outlook. Thanks to everyone who's stuck in their four-penn'orth!

    Terry Chivers

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    no offence intended Terry, i'm merely the SIMs Co-ordinator here, but have a techy background, and answer to most titles (SIMS guy, IT guy, tech, oi, ....).

    i supported NT4 into NT6 as i said before, and after coming here have actually used it, it's pretty straight forward to get to grips with if you just want to input a pre-created timetable, armed with a couple of hours and the manual. The primary school timetables here are still done on paper and then i input them into NT6 for the purpose of reporting. We are also starting to use Curriculum and Lesson Planner so it needs something to work with.

    As a last resort, the design could be done outside and the implementation put in manually, however, i've heard from others, that the import works ok now, and i imagine getting tech support from Keith / Timetabler in the UK is easier that it is for us here when we only overlap by 12 hours per week!

    nonetheless, i understand exactly what your concerns are, as i too am responsible for making sure everything just 'works'.

    i would be fairly confident that timetabler works, the only part i'm not sure of is, once the timetable is done and sent back to SIMS/sql. what do you do about modifications, additions? do you then go into NT6 or do you go back to Timetabler and then redo the export...? I don't think the maintenance process is going to be complicated but is also worth considering with all else. How do you deal with new teachers, teachers that leave or go on long term sick etc. I'm sure it's all been thought of, as loads of people out there use Timetabler.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vikpaw View Post
    i would be fairly confident that timetabler works, the only part i'm not sure of is, once the timetable is done and sent back to SIMS/sql. what do you do about modifications, additions? do you then go into NT6 or do you go back to Timetabler and then redo the export...? I don't think the maintenance process is going to be complicated but is also worth considering with all else. How do you deal with new teachers, teachers that leave or go on long term sick etc. I'm sure it's all been thought of, as loads of people out there use Timetabler.
    From what I have read, you go back to the timetable in Timetabler that was imported, make the changes here then export again chainging the timetable dates to start from when the timetable changes... The only complication here is that changes that were made in SIMS (rather than those that would normally be made in NovaT/Timetabler) will not be copied back and so must be updated in both. Whereas NovaT would make a maintanence timetable which could be adapted...

    Apart from that the process looks to be the same...

  10. #25

    vikpaw's Avatar
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    I wondered about that, maintenance sets are hard to get your head around. I don't think there would be many if any changes that you need to make in SIMS, and then update to Nova, apart from adding rooms/teachers/subjects etc. that's not a biggie.
    We don't use maintenance sets just send back from a new date usually, and never update Nova, just take the old file, make changes into a new file and then send back again.

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    I'm actually rather intreguied about TimeTabler now and am I wondering if it would be fairly easy to pick up and use? I understand the principles of Timetabling and how everything works and am competent when it comes to using and supporting Nova T6.

    Maintenance datasets in my book are usually a big "no! don't go there" as unless you know fully what you're doing (which I've got to say, I don't actually know anyone who does and I'm even a bit confused myself) then they are generally the easiest way to mess up your timetable from my experience. Schools who use this function end up giving me a headache as soon as they say the words Nova and maintenance in the same sentence virtually every time they pick up the phone.

    Independent Schools do have slightly different requirements when it comes to creating a timetable, however I note on Keith's website for Timetabler that many Independent Schools all across the world have used it already, one of the most recent comments is from King Henry VIII school in Coventry (another Independent with secondary + college age students) - it may be worth trying to have a chat with the timetabler there.

  12. #27
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    Sarconia
    There is a PDF of a step-by-step Tutorial Booklet, which takes you through the main features (only) of TimeTabler.

    Moving from one program to another always seems strange [just as moving from PaintShopPro to Photoshop seems odd, and vice-versa; or Quark Xpress to Adobe Indesign, or vice-versa]
    ...but there are materials to help new Users,
    ...including HelpMovies [video tutorials] and articles in the KnowledgeBase in the 24/7 Support Centre. And of course there is the HelpLine.
    Last edited by vikpaw; 5th May 2010 at 06:07 AM.

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    Sivadam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarconia View Post
    ..... Maintenance datasets in my book are usually a big "no! don't go there" as unless you know fully what you're doing (which I've got to say, I don't actually know anyone who does and I'm even a bit confused myself) then they are generally the easiest way to mess up your timetable.....
    I do use ‘em, Sarconia!
    In the first 8 days of the Summer Term I had 4 different Timetables kicking in on different days, all sent to SQL before Easter. Some had the Year End as the end date but some had earlier end dates. You cannot do this effectively without using Maintenance Datasets in NovaT6!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sivadam View Post
    I do use ‘em, Sarconia!
    In the first 8 days of the Summer Term I had 4 different Timetables kicking in on different days, all sent to SQL before Easter. Some had the Year End as the end date but some had earlier end dates. You cannot do this effectively without using Maintenance Datasets in NovaT6!
    That sounds like absolute insanity to me! Then again, am I correct in assuming that you're only dealing with the school who you work for? that and you're also extremely competent when it comes to Nova!

    I'd say it's perfectly viable in that situation as you'd know your school's timetable inside out, for me though, where I'm supporting loads of different schools all with completely different timetable structures and not all of the timetablers/data managers necessarily have a clue, I dont have the same level of understanding of each schools timetable so if they're using maintenance datasets - it really does result in quite a headache for me trying to figure it all out!

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    Sivadam's Avatar
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    Yep! It is my Timetable.
    And I do know it quite well! It has to be edited as and when necessary and happens very regularly here. And, after all, the Timetable drives the whole of the MIS. If it ain't 100% correct, all of the time, then the rest of the system simply cannot work efficiently!

    Dealing with all those Temporal Locks for a host of schools with Timetablers that do not understand must be a real nightmare!
    You have my sympathy!

    I actually lost some of my changes when I deleted some of the Locks in one of the Datasets I refer to above. But, as they always say, 'It wern't my fault, gov!'. The department head had given me bum info re. the dates of a rotation! So I have had to correct it again this week!
    Last edited by Sivadam; 5th May 2010 at 11:36 AM.

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