We will present the usage of school timetable software iTimeTable (iUrnik, slo.) in primary school Gorje, what are the benefits and how the process of creating school timetables has improved. We have collaborated with the principal of the school, Mrs. Mojca Brejc back in 2013, when writing an article about comparing school timetables in different schools around Slovenia. Assessing school timetable software is a hard and demanding job, mostly due to the fact it is hard to set the correct parameters and the final timetable is only one of them, therefore choosing the right software is difficult. One of the criteria can be the time needed to create timetable and taking all special demands of the school into account. The automation of the timetable problem is thus an important task as it saves a lot of man-hours work to institutions and provides optimal solutions with constraint satisfaction that can boost productivity, quality of education and services (Chaudhuri, 2010).
250 students are attending classes in year 2021/22 in Primary school Gorje. They are allocated in 15 classes (3rd, 7th and 9th have only one, while others have two). There are 30 teachers in the school and there are 17 classrooms, plus a gym that is separated into two “classrooms”. Timetable is changed halfway through school year for subjects of history and geography in 6th grade and between arts and technical education in 8th grade. All other classes have the same timetable through the year.
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School started using iTimeTable in year 2014. Principal Mrs. Mojca Brejc is responsible for timetable process even from before the iTimeTable was used. This year, vice-principal Mrs. Tatjana Pintar was also involved in the process.
The offer of elective subjects is done over eAsistent (https://www.easistent.com/ – school information system software), mostly because it enables electronic confirmation of subjects from students and teachers. All students’ choices are then inserted into iTimeTable.
After adding teachers’ work obligation and other mandatory data e.g., teacher offer, classroom capacity, etc., there are some special demands from Primary school Gorje.
- Subjects of PE and elective PE should not be taught in the same day.
- Subjects Art class and elective subject Art class should not be taught in the same day.
- All subjects of Music class should only be taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- All elective subjects should be taught in block (double) hours, except for language classes and PE classes.
- Block hours should always be on 6th or 7th school hour.
- Subject of German language should be taught only on Monday, Thursday, and Friday afternoon, since the teacher also teaches on other schools.
Mrs. Brejc adds: “I find our demand to have a “nice schedule” for my teachers interesting. With that I mean to have the least amount of free hours in between teaching and waiting.” Nonetheless an extra demand is added to iTimeTable to add some “free hours” into teachers’ schedules, so they are available in cases of substitutions. Although iTimeTable can be used to find the most suitable substitute teacher, the school does not use it for that purpose.
It takes about 5 hours for Mrs. Brejc to insert all data into software. Afterwards it takes iTimeTable about 3 days to calculate the timetables, but there are usually some more extra demands that are added. There is no manual intervention during timetable calculation. New demands are inserted, and software takes them into account and recalculates the timetable. Since timetable process is usually done in August, there is no problem in letting the software run for a couple of days to create a timetable (calculation is done on one laptop PC, with basic specification, longer calculation times provides a better timetable). After the timetable is calculated it is exported back into eAsistent and published to everyone involved in education process. Usually there are no comments from teachers or students.
The biggest contribution of iTimeTable for Primary school Gorje is, according to the principal: “Timetable for students, has almost no “holes” and even the ones that exist are permissible. If all demands are inserted into software correctly, timetable is assembled.”
There was another benefit of iTimeTable. School could prove they had a lack of classrooms and was able to get finances from local government. Now, they have enough classrooms and therefore the issues in learning and scheduling process are gone.
In the case that demands inserted into the software are contradictory, the user is instantly alerted, e.g., there was a problem with gym and the restrictions regarding the PE teacher. This was solved by Mrs. Brejc, by changing the teacher’s restrictions and the timetable was calculated.
In the future, school would like to use iTimeTable to solve the problem of day care and that is also in the development plan of company Algit.
School does not create different simulations of timetables. At least not yet.
Primary school Gorje is a nice example of cooperation between school and the company Algit. Using iTimeTable software they were able to get the optimal timetable, that takes all their demands into account, alerts the user to all inconsistencies (if there are any) and finally creates a timetable that suits students, teachers, and school’s management. The process of software implementation and user training was also quite straight forward without any major complication. Mrs. Brejc creates timetable every year almost without any help from out help desk support (if there are some new demands or commands that were added to the software a phone call to Algit’s team solves the problem in a couple of minutes).
Chaudhuri, A., De, K., (2010), Fuzzy Genetic Heuristic for University Course Timetable Problem, International Journal of Advances in Soft Computing and Its Applications, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 100-123