Improving teaching and learning with a better timetable

Skolaris Software

Skolaris Software, s.r.o., founded in 2015, is a team of timetabling enthusiasts from Brno, Czech Republic. Their goal is to improve the everyday life of students and staff at schools around the world by creating better timetables. They combine research, programming skills, profound experience in development of educational information systems and dedication to the cause to produce Skolaris – a friendly timetable creation and optimisation software.
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A good timetable is a key to quality education for pupils and to an ergonomic working environment for teachers. The task of creating a balanced schedule for everyone is difficult. The cloud-based application Skolaris produces timetables that bring high level of satisfaction to both students and staff.


Back to basics


In an age of in-class apps and gadgets aimed at improving the quality of education, it is easy to overlook the foundations. It is puzzling to see schools embracing the digital age with a branched tree of tablets, e-learning apps and other modern tools, but only expressing marginal interest in solidifying its roots: Making the best of the layout of classes throughout the week, the timetable.


Real-world timetables contain flaws which disregard some of the aspects of a good timetable – sufficient spread of courses, preferential room assignment, teacher idle time limitation [1] and diverse subject sequences among many. This is inevitable, and some lenience is in order – their construction is usually so difficult that once feasibility is reached, there remains little room for optimisation. Yet minimising the number of these flaws is crucial and, as shown later, has direct positive impact on the quality of class work.


Timetable improvement with Skolaris


For the purpose of timetable evaluation, a few schools of different sizes provided their requirements and actual timetables. These were compared with timetables created autonomously by Skolaris. The following chart presents a comparison of the student-aimed aspects mentioned above for a Secondary school [2] with 853 courses and 2809 fortnightly lessons.



For exhaustive information and full comparison, please visit the Skolaris website.


The timetable improvement looks impressive, but it's only the interpretation of the results that shows how deep an impact on education quality is actually achieved:


Over 10% (292) more classes are placed in preferred rooms. This can represent better access to special equipment which directly influences what the teacher can or cannot do in the class. Happening once in every 10 classes, it could improve the daily learning experience for each class group!


Almost 25% (210) more courses are properly spread throughout the two weeks. There are 63% (467) fewer cases of unwanted subject sequences (such as having two different language classes in a row). This makes for a much more diverse and balanced schedule for the students, having invaluable positive impact on their day-to-day engagement, attention and alertness.


Conclusion


There are many aspects influencing the timetable quality. Skolaris currently supports more than 40, such as weighted teacher time preferences, busy time clustering and idle time limitation, subject placement within a day, transport times between campuses and teacher lunch breaks.


Observing all of them while constructing the timetable is beyond human ability. Skolaris makes it possible for teachers to relish balanced and customised schedules and for pupils to spend a more enjoyable time at school.


“Skolaris, unlike other software, dealt with all specific requirements of our school,” said RNDr Vladimír Slezák, PhD, assistant principal at Gymnázium Uničov, Czech republic. “It works fast and is user-friendly. Our organisation is using the timetable created by Skolaris without any problems. I definitely recommend Skolaris to anyone interested.”


References


1. England StPaul (UK-SP-06) dataset, High School Timetabling Project, CTIT Institute, university of Twente, Netherlands.
2. Integrovaná střední škola, Brno, Czech republic.


About the author


Martin Klemsa, MSc (39) is a cofounder of Skolaris Software. He had been involved with Realizeit (Dublin) in developing their intelligent learning system and continues to contribute as a consultant. His experience in educational IS started in 2005 with CCM Ltd (Dublin), later Serco Advanced Learning (UK), with maintenance and extensions of their popular Facility MIS.


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