Shalom College – The Edval Experience - Education Matters Magazine
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Shalom College – The Edval Experience

Shalom College is a leading Catholic school in Bundaberg, Queensland, with over 1200 students. After meeting at a conference, the principal elected to consider Edval’s technology for the school’s timetabling. The original plan was to run Edval against Shalom’s existing timetable software, to compare between the two packages.

The Shalom timetable team attended Edval training, and resolved that Edval provided benefits not available with their previous software. The team also decided it was not necessary to run both timetable products in parallel, as they were confident that Edval adequately met their needs. The transition to Edval was seamless and, and a number of impressive benefits were observed, giving the college a user-friendly means of managing such matters as college resources and daily arrangements for a large college.

Rooming

A streamlining of the process of rooming the timetable was experienced using Edval. It was possible to specify rooming requirements to a much finer degree, and the automated rooming tools provided positive results.

If manual changes to rooms were desired, the tools used in this process allowed better visibility of the room options and current rooms assigned to any particular class.

The rooming process had been manual and curriculum coordinators were required to assist with the process. For example it was not always possible for Science coordinators to manage an equitable distribution of labs between classes. Using Edval, Shalom is better able to control overall equity in allocation of labs.

Elective lines

Allocation of student electives was improved using Edval software. Elective line development is a holistic process. Lines are able to be constructed across years and Edval’s methods facilitate multi-year level planning.

The elective line tools include specific resource management, allowing control over staffing and rooming within the elective lines and across multiple years. In previous years, lines often worked well for students, but could not be staffed or allow composite groups to run across years. This is largely completed comprehensively with Edval.

Class list management

Edval’s ‘My Classes’ feature shows all options instantly – including analysis of all possible scenarios, that may involve students changing multiple classes across lines, to pick up a desired subject.

The multi-user functions of Edval are straightforward when making class list changes. Previously, each year was in a separate file, and files could only be opened one year at a time. This was problematic when class list changes were being made for a number of students in different years. It also prevented individual administrators from accessing class list changes in a given year simultaneously – which was a problem in peak periods. The Edval timetable system has one single file for all applications, and any number of users are able to access and make class list changes concurrently, for any year group.

Staff who are not ‘timetablers’ can make changes within the simpler application – EdvalStaff. EdvalStaff does not require direct access to the timetable software. The coordinators effecting subject changes don’t need to handle complicated structures, or work through several scenarios to find the best option for a student, therefore students can secure desired subjects where multiple changes are required, and the entire process is faster than manually analysing a subject change.

Staffing flexibility

Shalom has traditionally run a blocked structure, with seven blocks of five periods each. Running a rotating nine day timetable, with four periods a day, there are 36 teaching periods in the timetable cycle. With three elective blocks and English, Maths, and Science blocks accounted for, there are six periods remaining. Religion (RE) and Physical Education (PE) are compulsory. Shalom runs three periods of RE and three periods of PE in these six periods. This posed a problem for the school, as RE+PE periods didn’t fit neatly under all the other blocks, which are five periods in duration. The senior school has a one period ‘access period’ to accommodate the 36th period – while all other blocks are a standard five periods. Essentially, they need the PE/RE classes to span two different blocks, which makes timetabling complicated. Additionally, Shalom provides students the ability to select from multiple types of Maths and Science and even English. These are also essentially elective classes.

Traditionally, Shalom was only able to timetable this structure, by designating a year 10 period as a combined PE+RE period – which effectively constituted the “sixth” period in the block. The main problem was staffing so many RE or PE classes simultaneously. Occasionally it was necessary to allocate these subjects to lower-preference teachers, there would often be split classes for teachers to solve the scheduling problem.

Shalom asked how they could replicate this existing timetable structure into the new package – assuming it was not possible to run any alternate structure. Edval identified a number of problems and proposed an innovative elective line style approach. Students were able to be grouped in linked floating classes, of equivalent subject levels (e.g. a particular type of Science or Maths). In a Suduko-style puzzle arrangement, the classes were put together in such a way that six classes of PE and RE were scheduled at the same time for this one period, meaning classes from other subjects could be floated into this period.

The flexibility of this approach allowed Shalom to reconsider the structure and staffing of these classes. They were able to guarantee uniform staffing within all PE and RE classes. Importantly, they were able to ensure the best quality teachers taught RE classes, with some being able to teach multiple classes, which was not possible previously. The ability to staff these classes more appropriately was viewed as a highly positive feature of the new package. An additional benefit was that improved staffing flexibility allowed improved balance of teacher load across these subjects. This improves equity of workload for teachers and, over time, may reduce staffing costs.

Shalom acknowledged that working with Edval software represented a partnership between college staff and Edval. As the timetabling continued, Edval consultants performing training, and in a support capacity, introduced a fresh approach to Shalom’s particular needs. The solutions presented allowed Shalom staff further insight into the features of the software and represented a new view of old ‘problems’.