Using rooms efficiently and saving time is Ad Astra’s goal when it comes to making room assignments for sections. The optimizer in Astra Schedule is a bulk room assignment tool that can assign rooms to your sections for a full term, and then can be published and exported back to your Student Information System, otherwise known as the SIS. For example, a registrar or academic scheduler can run the optimizer to save time when making room assignments for a term, letting the system find the best fit for a section based on the capacity of the course and the size of a room, all while taking into account the rules the same user has created. Let’s dive into how this happens.
Our first video is a little under 8 minutes long – be prepared! We recommend pausing and rewinding as much as you need to for maximum retention.
Create an Optimizer Run
Optimization Results: Scheduled, Meeting Patterns, and Bottleneck Rooms
Optimization Results: Bottleneck Sections
The bottleneck sections tab shows sections that found rooms that fit all the criteria that were asked for – seat fill percentage and scheduling preferences. However, the room was not available. Bottleneck sections are often resolved by changing a time or by lowering a seat full percentage to expand which rooms a section could be assigned to.
You can interpret a bottleneck section by clicking on the plus sign to see which room the section tried to go into. Let's look at the example below for BEST 204. This section was required to go into a room type of Classroom per our scheduling preferences, and it needed to be in a room where it filled at least 80% of the space. Adams 107, Partridge Hall 103, and Adams 106 were the only rooms that fit that criteria, but other sections were assigned to those rooms first.
To check which sections were assigned to those rooms, you can click the i icon. We can see that MGMT 135 was assigned to Adams 107. This is where you can make some interpretations on if you should restrict this room from being used, or you can create more specific rules for either of these courses. If you have an event in the future already booked in a classroom, you'll see that reflected here as well!
If you lower the seat fill percentage and run the optimizer again, often times these sections can find a room assignment or at least more rooms that are available for this section within the confines of the preferences.
If you would like to manually assign this section, you can do the same thing as in the meetings tab by clicking on the edit pencil and then the house icon.
Optimization Results: Infeasibles
The last tab is the infeasible tab. The infeasible tab holds sections that were not able to be scheduled because of either the preferences or the seat fill percentage. Most of the time a section is not able to be assigned due to a rule requiring a specific room or rooms, and the section does not fit the seat fill percentage requirement for that room. It's also possible that the section is required to go into a room that is too small, causing that section to always be infeasible. Another common result in the infeasible tab is a section with an enrollment of zero. Zero is not a percentage of anything, so those sections will always end up in the infeasible bucket.
The hard constraints are the required preferences that were created in the preference set for these sections. In the example below, ANTH 001, ANTH 005, and BEST 292 were all required to be in a room type of Classroom. ANTH 001 and ANTH 005 both have enrollments higher than the largest classroom that Astra University has to offer, so they will always be infeasible. There simply isn't a room large enough! BEST 292 has such a low enrollment that it will not be able to fill at least 80% of any rooms with the room type of Classroom.
A tip we often recommend to our clients is to have your room list open in another browser tab so you can easily switch back and forth, checking for room sizes, features, etc.
You can also possibly have conflicting rules for your classes in the preference set. The optimizer doesn't know which rule it should obey so it does not schedule it, and that brings it into the infeasible tab.
You can resolve infeasible sections the same way you resolve bottleneck sections – either lower the seat fill percentage or assign the sections manually.
Layering and Publishing
You probably won’t be able to schedule all your rooms at an 80% seat fill percentage, which is why we can layer optimization runs. Layering consists of keeping the room assignments you made in your original run and then running the optimizer again on the bottleneck and infeasible sections, either at a lower seat fill percentage, with different settings, and/or with a different preference set. After assigning your rooms, you can then send those room assignments to your SIS!
Layering and Publishing
Optimization can be used for many different scenarios, whether you're scheduling all your sections for a term, a subset, or you're scenario modeling a change you may have coming in the future. Remember - you can run the optimizer as many times as you want without publishing! That's the beauty of the sandbox. Now that you know how scheduling preferences and the optimizer work, you can start the process of gathering (or refining!) your scheduling preferences and running the optimizer. The best way to learn is to do it - so start running the optimizer and getting familiar now!
Our last lesson in the academics world is next: exam scheduling!
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