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Windows Thread, School Timetable software in Technical; Hi, Does anyone have any recommendations for software for making up a school timetable .... preferably free software please? I've ...
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    School Timetable software

    Hi,

    Does anyone have any recommendations for software for making up a school timetable .... preferably free software please?

    I've seen some room booking stuff which is pretty good but want something that will create timetables for the school.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks

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    Gatt's Avatar
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    Would be interested in hearing of such software, as for the last several weeks my LM has been struggling with a spreadsheet to try and sort out the timetables for next year...

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    Free timetable software . . . for timetabling school timetables . . . for easier scheduling. looks interesting, never used it before though(first one that came up in a google search)

    We currently use NovaT6, prior to that Timetabler(not the above) was used, NovaT6 isnt too cheap but I think Timetabler was much cheaper(used before I joined).

    Why does the software need to be free? surely timetabling is a critical part of running a school and as such should be funded pretty much no matter the cost unless you've got someone with the time to spare. Even using nova takes our timetabler a few weeks to sort out even though we're not the biggest of schools.

    Edit, the above program is not actually free and looks as though its the same one we used before NovaT6. Our timetabler liked it either way - not sure why we switched over to Nova.
    Last edited by Jamman960; 21st June 2009 at 10:38 PM.

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    we use timetabler for windows.

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    Quote Originally Posted by e-class View Post
    Any ideas?
    The timetabling (or "rostering") problem is NP-Complete. It does, however, seemingly "respond well to genetic algorithmic approaches" to solutions, i.e. you can't simply sit in a for loop and chug through every possible combination of classes, pupils and times until you hit a solution because it will take you 10,000,000 years, but you can try evolving a best-fit solution. So far I understand the general principle of programming genetic algorithms easily enough - you just represent programs as syntax trees in a basic tree-style data structure then chop-and-change them around a bit each generation, basic second year computer science stuff. The bit I don't quite get is how you represent a timetable as a program in the first place - or do you aim for a program that takes a fixed data set and processes it into the timetable you want?

    --
    David Hicks

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    My suggestion to our Dep. Head was to give each teacher a stack of tiddlywinks, Green, Yellow and Red. They then wrote each subject on a wink. Green - Confident; Yellow =- OK; Red - Rather Not. She then has a blank timetable and allocates the Green counters, followed by the Yellow. I suspect that any system would require a fair bit of manual tweaking and that a totally manual system like this would be as quick and efficient as any computer program.

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    kesomir's Avatar
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    I use ASC Timetables.

    It isn't free, but it's a one-shot price of 499 euros (399 if you qualify for the discount) including upgrades.

    aSc TimeTables - School Scheduling. Best timetable software to create school timetable.

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    apoth0r's Avatar
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    Think our timetable software is a part of e-portal

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    I helped schedule the timetable using our MIS scheduler (Serco Facility) this year.

    How does using these third party schedulers fit in with using an MIS ?

    ie our timetable forms the basis for assessments,reports, behaviour and attendance etc within the MIS.

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamman960 View Post
    Free timetable software . . . for timetabling school timetables . . . for easier scheduling. looks interesting, never used it before though(first one that came up in a google search)
    This one isn't as free as it first appears: http://www.timetabler.com/PDFs/OrderForm.pdf

    We trialled Mimosa (http://www.mimosasoftware.com/mimosa.html), again not free, but not too expensive. It's quite good... we didn't get it because the budget goalposts got moved!
    Last edited by elsiegee40; 22nd June 2009 at 08:58 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by monkeyx View Post
    I helped schedule the timetable using our MIS scheduler (Serco Facility) this year.

    How does using these third party schedulers fit in with using an MIS ?

    ie our timetable forms the basis for assessments,reports, behaviour and attendance etc within the MIS.
    Some timetabling software does integrate although I'm not sure how that'd work with sims... they'd probably want to charge you for the patch to enable timetables in the first place

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    The timetabling (or "rostering") problem is NP-Complete. It does, however, seemingly "respond well to genetic algorithmic approaches" to solutions, i.e. you can't simply sit in a for loop and chug through every possible combination of classes, pupils and times until you hit a solution because it will take you 10,000,000 years, but you can try evolving a best-fit solution. So far I understand the general principle of programming genetic algorithms easily enough - you just represent programs as syntax trees in a basic tree-style data structure then chop-and-change them around a bit each generation, basic second year computer science stuff. The bit I don't quite get is how you represent a timetable as a program in the first place - or do you aim for a program that takes a fixed data set and processes it into the timetable you want?

    --
    David Hicks
    Creating a GP/GA that has the correct representation and an appropriate fitness test is...difficult. I personally prefer Grammatical Evolution, but that probably has something to do with a number of my people at my uni being GE-biased and so heavily promoting it .

    For a timetabling problem you'd probably be looking at a fitness function that returned a default fitness if it successfully timetabled all classes, and then biased the results based on how many rooms were being used/what rooms were being used/how many frees certain teachers had etc. Representing the search space etc however is difficult, and would need some thought to produce an efficient encoding.

    My personal preference however is to solve timetable problems as a constraint optimisation problem/constraint satisfaction problem

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    rdk
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    We use this:

    FirstClass - Timetabling Excellence

    Timetabler seems to like it. What's good for staff and students is that there is a web interface, and you can log in to find kids/rooms/teachers timetables, plus class/subject lists etc. I think the kids can log in and get their timetables, and maybe teachers' also if they're looking for a particular teacher. No secrets at our school!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soulfish View Post
    Creating a GP/GA that has the correct representation and an appropriate fitness test is...difficult. I personally prefer Grammatical Evolution
    Quickly reading up about Grammatical Evolution, it seems to be basic genetic programming but with functions that take differing input types, which would seem to add to the difficulty of thinking up a suitible set of functions in the first place.

    For a timetabling problem you'd probably be looking at a fitness function that returned a default fitness if it successfully timetabled all classes, and then biased the results based on how many rooms were being used/what rooms were being used/how many frees certain teachers had etc. Representing the search space etc however is difficult, and would need some thought to produce an efficient encoding.
    Indeed. I was thinking that what would probably work is to try and evolve a program that takes as input sets of data - subjects and pupils - and processes that data into a number of timetables. A fitness function would then count the number of clashes in each timetable, with the one with the fewest clashes going through to the next round.

    It strikes me, though, that there must be someone out there who's done a PhD in this kind of thing and who's produced a reasonably readable paper detailing their algorithm. It doesn't neccesarily have to be the best algorithm, either, just a reasonable one. IIf you have any experience with solutions to the timetabling problem I'd appreciate any pointers you might have.

    My personal preference however is to solve timetable problems as a constraint optimisation problem/constraint satisfaction problem
    I don't know what either of those are, can you explain a bit more?

    --
    David Hicks

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    Quickly reading up about Grammatical Evolution, it seems to be basic genetic programming but with functions that take differing input types, which would seem to add to the difficulty of thinking up a suitible set of functions in the first place.



    Indeed. I was thinking that what would probably work is to try and evolve a program that takes as input sets of data - subjects and pupils - and processes that data into a number of timetables. A fitness function would then count the number of clashes in each timetable, with the one with the fewest clashes going through to the next round.

    It strikes me, though, that there must be someone out there who's done a PhD in this kind of thing and who's produced a reasonably readable paper detailing their algorithm. It doesn't neccesarily have to be the best algorithm, either, just a reasonable one. IIf you have any experience with solutions to the timetabling problem I'd appreciate any pointers you might have.
    I'll have a look through my notes and see if I can dig up anything. I'm fairly sure I've read a few papers on the subject and may even have some of them saved!


    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    I don't know what either of those are, can you explain a bit more?
    Essentially you provide a set of constraints to solve your problem, and the solver goes away to figure it out. It get's a lot more complicated when you try to do it efficiently to reduce the search space and speed up the time it takes to find a solution, but typically most timetabling systems are in fact constraint satisfaction programs.

    It's a huge area with lots of work being done on it, but typically you prototype using a logic programming language like ECLiPSe (a dialect of prolog designed for constraint problems - ECLiPSe Home) and then once you've got it working well you reimplement in C or similar.

    Because of how it works you can get some very small programs to do hugely complex tasks, like solving any N*N Suduko using essentially 3 statements.

    There's a powerpoint presentation introducing CSP at http://87.230.22.228/reports/eclipse.ppt from the University of Kent and going through some examples in ECLiPSe. It can get a little mathematical though, particularly once you start getting into optimising the outputs to get you hopefully a good solution.

    If you want any more info just ask - hopefully I might even remember the answer!

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