Looking for an optimal-schedule creator
February 23, 2012 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I need to create a schedule for many, many one-on-one meetings that are all happening in the same day, between two groups of people. What's the best way?

My graduate program invites all prospective students to interview on the same day. All of these prospective students need to meet with many faculty members and graduate students on that day. I need to make a schedule that lets each prospective student meet with all the members of the department they need to speak with, that also takes into account constraints in individual faculty/grad schedules.

Here are the facts:

-Faculty and grad students are not available all day. For each individual, I will have a list of the times during the day when they are free, and I will need to squeeze all their meetings with prospective students into those times.

-Prospective students are free all day. There are no constraints in their meeting schedule except that they cannot be in two places at once.

-Not all prospective students will meet with a given program member, and not all program members will meet a given prospective student. Each prospective student has a unique list of people they need to talk to.

-Meetings should only be one-on-one unless, for a given member of the department, there are more meeting requests than available time slots in that person's schedule. In that case, it is OK if more than one prospective student meets with that person at the same time.

In past years, this schedule has been organized by hand, which is a recipe for making everybody crazy, and often everything has to be redone every time one detail changes.

Is there a good way to automate this? I am already aware of meeting schedulers like Doodle. Doodle is great for finding times for group meetings, but I don't think it will sort out many one-on-one meetings for me. (Please tell me if I'm wrong!) I thought some kind of scheduler for conference sessions might be more useful, but I can't find anything that does quite what I need. Ideally, some software exists where I can enter a list of times each person is free, a list of who needs to meet with who, and it will give me the optimal schedule based on those.

Unfortunately, any software solution needs to be free, or we'll end up doing it by hand. Otherwise, any tricks for doing this by hand less painfully would also be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by pemberkins to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Doodle has a "meet me" feature for one-on-one meetings and it even connects to Outlook/Gcal/etc
posted by radioamy at 12:04 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been messing around with agreeAdate.com, you may want to give it a try.
posted by elle.jeezy at 12:06 PM on February 23, 2012

I don't have an electronic suggestion but if I had to do it "by hand" I would use excel.

I imagine each faculty member & grad student having their own row, standard time slots along the columns. Block out the slots that arent available. Sort the students by most interviews requested/necessary. Then plug in prospective students starting with the most constrained prof. & student. (ie. schedule everyone who needs to see the muckiest-mucky-muck first).

When you've filled the table, you can created a table by student name to create prospect schedules. MeMail me if you need an explanation about how I'd do that.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 9:33 AM on February 24, 2012

We've done it in Excel in the past. Doing it once by hand that way is not so bad. But, inevitably someone will say, "Oh, wait, I said I was free at 10 but actually I can't come in until 10:30," which changes one meeting, and can cause a chain reaction of problems throughout the schedule - large chunks of it need redoing to accommodate the change. Doing it by hand several times over as these changes roll in can get kind of old, which is why I was hoping to find some kind of software solution.

Doodle's MeetMe features look great for scheduling lots of one-on-one meetings for one person (if many people all need to individually meet with me, for instance), but I don't think it will work for my situation (many people need to individually meet with many other people).

Thanks for your help, everyone!
posted by pemberkins at 5:38 AM on February 25, 2012

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