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TU Berlin

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Moses

A university of the magnitude of the Technical University of Berlin has to schedule and conduct thousands of classes and hundreds of lectures per semester. Each one has to be held in an appropriate room and at an appropriate time, i.e., without conflicts for the teaching staff or the attending students. Particularly the latter poses considerable challenges since many classes are part of several study programs and due to the variation in individual timetables because of elective courses.

That is why the timetabling software Moses was conceived and developed here at innoCampus. In Moses, the university course timetabling problem is modeled mathematically. This way, an optimal timetable can be found, given the right input data. Essentially, the optimal scheduling works according to the following principle:

Data input

Staff put in lecturer's availabilities and room requirements for classes.

Automatic scheduling

The algorithm generates the timetables which satisfy all necessary conditions—such as absence of time conflicts—and takes the lecturers' preferences into account

Review

Following their generation, the planners can check the timetables and incorporate change requests.

Publishing

Finally, the timetables are published in the university's course catalog.

 

Data Entry and Maintenance

Lecturers can state their availabilities
In the timetabling software Moses, lecturers can state their availabilities.

Clean data is a prerequisite for solid planning. In order to make the input process as comfortable and accessible as possible, Moses was realized as a web application. Staff can log in to enter information. The data of the preceding semester is always preloaded to minimize the effort required in this step. There are input forms for all the data relevant to timetabling. That includes the availabilities of lecturers, the detailed study programs and the room database. Plausibility checks ensure consistent input and an elaborate rights management makes sure that every user can only see and edit what falls into his or her responsibilities.

Functionalities of Moses

The optimization model differs depending on the type of timetabling. Moses is applied with the following optimization problems:

Course timetabling
Examination timetabling
Enrollment-based timetabling

Additionally, the system has been extended by some campus management functions over the years. Those are:

  • (Dis-)enrollment in exams
  • Administration of homework assignments/achievements equivalent to exams
  • Management of personnel data
  • Administration and maintenance of study programs
   

The home page for faculty staff (teachers and planners)
The home page of the timetabling software Moses for lecturers and planners

Success of the Project

Moses has been in use at TU Berlin for several years. In this period, the university's timetabling consistently became more reliable, transparent and fair. Especially students have benefited from the changes, namely from the guaranteed conflict-free timetables, the consideration of their time preferences when scheduling tutorials, and from the incorporation of preparation times in the exam timetabling.

TU Berlin uses Moses to schedule

  • 2,000 classes per semester

  • 400 examinations per semester

  • 1,100 tutorials featuring 25,000 spots per semester

On top of that, an approximate 36,000 study achievements such as homework assignments are managed with Moses per semester, as are about 6,000 exam registrations.

In 2013, the spin-off MathPlan was founded to make the advantages of automated timetabling available to other universities and colleges. MathPlan can license the software to and maintain it for them.

History of the Project

A far-reaching reorganisation of the study programs and the classes offered by the Institute of Mathematics in 2002 posed big challenges to planners and lecturers, particularly because some courses swell to include as many as 2,300 students. A task disregarded thus far was the distribution of students onto tutorials. First attempts using known techniques such as lottery or first-come, first-served turned out to be time-consuming, impractical and yielding less than satisfactory results. Therefore, a new approach was pursued: The assignment of students to tutorials was based on an impartial computerized method. In the summer term of 2003, Moses was first used for tutorial assignment at TU Berlin, back then still under the name of "MosesKonto".

2010, an automated examination scheduling solution followed. Finally, a software to solve the general course timetabling problem was developed in a co-operation with RWTH Aachen University in 2013. More on this project here.