A Constraint-Based Dental School Timetabling System

AI Magazine

We describe a constraint-based timetabling system that was developed for the dental school based at Cork University Hospital in Ireland. This sy stem has been deployed since 2010. Dental school timetabling differs from other university course scheduling in that certain clinic sessions can be used by multiple courses at the same time, provided a limit on room capacity is satisfied. Starting from a constraint programming solution using a web interface, we have moved to a mixed integer programming-based solver to deal with multiple objective functions, along with a dedicated Java application, which provides a rich user interface. Solutions for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 have been used in the dental school, replacing a manual timetabling process, which could no longer cope with increasing student numbers and resulting resource bottlenecks. The use of the automated system allowed the dental school to increase the number of students enrolled to the maximum possible given the available resources. It also provides the school with a valuable “what-if” analysis tool.


Feature-based tuning of simulated annealing applied to the curriculum-based course timetabling problem

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

We consider the university course timetabling problem, which is one of the most studied problems in educational timetabling. In particular, we focus our attention on the formulation known as the curriculum-based course timetabling problem, which has been tackled by many researchers and for which there are many available benchmarks. The contribution of this paper is twofold. First, we propose an effective and robust single-stage simulated annealing method for solving the problem. Secondly, we design and apply an extensive and statistically-principled methodology for the parameter tuning procedure. The outcome of this analysis is a methodology for modeling the relationship between search method parameters and instance features that allows us to set the parameters for unseen instances on the basis of a simple inspection of the instance itself. Using this methodology, our algorithm, despite its apparent simplicity, has been able to achieve high quality results on a set of popular benchmarks. A final contribution of the paper is a novel set of real-world instances, which could be used as a benchmark for future comparison.


Fairness in Academic Course Timetabling

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

We consider the problem of creating fair course timetables in the setting of a university. Our motivation is to improve the overall satisfaction of individuals concerned (students, teachers, etc.) by providing a fair timetable to them. The central idea is that undesirable arrangements in the course timetable, i.e., violations of soft constraints, should be distributed in a fair way among the individuals. We propose two formulations for the fair course timetabling problem that are based on max-min fairness and Jain's fairness index, respectively. Furthermore, we present and experimentally evaluate an optimization algorithm based on simulated annealing for solving max-min fair course timetabling problems. The new contribution is concerned with measuring the energy difference between two timetables, i.e., how much worse a timetable is compared to another timetable with respect to max-min fairness. We introduce three different energy difference measures and evaluate their impact on the overall algorithm performance. The second proposed problem formulation focuses on the tradeoff between fairness and the total amount of soft constraint violations. Our experimental evaluation shows that the known best solutions to the ITC2007 curriculum-based course timetabling instances are quite fair with respect to Jain's fairness index. However, the experiments also show that the fairness can be improved further for only a rather small increase in the total amount of soft constraint violations.


A Decomposition of the Max-min Fair Curriculum-based Course Timetabling Problem

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

We propose a decomposition of the max-min fair curriculum-based course timetabling (MMF-CB-CTT) problem. The decomposition models the room assignment subproblem as a generalized lexicographic bottleneck optimization problem (LBOP). We show that the generalized LBOP can be solved efficiently if the corresponding sum optimization problem can be solved efficiently. As a consequence, the room assignment subproblem of the MMF-CB-CTT problem can be solved efficiently. We use this insight to improve a previously proposed heuristic algorithm for the MMF-CB-CTT problem. Our experimental results indicate that using the new decomposition improves the performance of the algorithm on most of the 21 ITC2007 test instances with respect to the quality of the best solution found. Furthermore, we introduce a measure of the quality of a solution to a max-min fair optimization problem. This measure helps to overcome some limitations imposed by the qualitative nature of max-min fairness and aids the statistical evaluation of the performance of randomized algorithms for such problems. We use this measure to show that using the new decomposition the algorithm outperforms the original one on most instances with respect to the average solution quality.


The Deployment of a Constraint-Based Dental School Timetabling System

AAAI Conferences

We describe a constraint-based timetabling system that was developed for the dental school based at Cork University Hospital in Ireland.This system has been deployed since 2010.Dental school timetabling differs from other university course scheduling in that certain clinic sessions can be used by multiple courses at the same time, provided a limit on room capacity is satisfied.Starting from a constraint programming solution using a web interface, we have moved to a mixed integer programming-based solver to deal with multiple objective functions, along with a dedicated Java application, which provides a rich user interface.Solutions for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 have been used in the dental school, replacing a manual timetabling process, which could no longer cope with increasing student numbers and resulting resource bottlenecks.The use of the automated system allowed the dental school to increase student numbers to the maximum possible given the available resources.It also provides the school with a valuable "what-if" analysis tool.