Design And Implementation Of An Online SMS Examination Timetable Alert System

Project and Seminar Material for Computer Science and Computer Engineering

Design And Implementation Of An Online SMS Examination Timetable Alert System


Abstract


This project designs and implements an algorithm which creates a semester course time table by assigning time-slots and exam halls to a given set of courses to be run that semester under given constraints. The constraints include avoiding clashes of time-slots and halls, assigning appropriate halls and appropriate number of slots. Although this computer technology is not new to the college, the current exam timetable scheduling is done manually and then uploaded on the school website. Students have to browse the college website each time to know about any news updates like examination date changes, exam results etc. This project is a system which sends latest news updates from college website to a student, either via SMS or e-mail or both. The system is developed so that when students subscribe to this service through registration, they will be notified with latest relevant information about examination. With this, they do not miss out on exam update which in turn saves their valuable time and data. To actualize the said system, PHP programming language was used for the examination scheduling and SMS message sending algorithm development. MySQL database management system was used for student and college data storage. The developed timetabling algorithm system was effective and practical in taking care of both hard and soft constraints imposed on courses.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

One of the main functions of any institution of higher learning is assessment of students’ in their understanding of concepts and skills acquired during their training period in the institution. The outcome of such assessments is realized via a series of activities that constitute the overall examination process. This process entails setting of examinations by the relevant lecturers, administration of such examinations by the appropriate course coordinators and subsequently processing and realizing of students results emanating from such a process. The entire assessment process can at times be such an enormous task that can take long periods of time to complete, and is prone to numerous errors, in addition to significant costs that may be involved. With the current advancement in technology, this process can be streamlined to a very large extent. (Eley, 2016).

In every organized system which is dependent on accurate time management, there is also a need to have a system which can on its own serve the purpose of automatically sending alert text messages. Time management plays important role in the success of any venture like a university environment where limited spaces (lecture halls), time and people have to be managed for effective lecture delivery and examination management. It is important to remind or inform lecturers and students of examination schedule so as to make them informed about their exams. People can easily be reached through their handheld devices such as mobile phone irrespective of their location (Deb, 2002). Hence, there is the need to develop a examination system that will combine available resources and reach people via short message service (SMS) using GSM module.

The basis of this project is to look into ways and means in which examination information system can be used to significantly reduce the various drawbacks brought about by the current system of operation.

Advancement in ICT technologies, such as the decision support systems, distributed systems, mobile computing, and so on, have made enormous quantity of data and information processing within the Internet and other large-scale networks possible. This has presented numerous opportunities for the institution to carry out its day-to-day operations in an efficient manner that will ensure that. it realizes its objectives much more effectively. The more information becomes available electronically the more the user is given greater diversity > ‘ * and choice. This however also means that the user must spend more time extracting and 1 sorting the relevant information from the increasing volumes of data. Institutions with affiliated campuses dispersed across wide geographical areas depend heavily on communication channels for information and data transfer. Availability and reliability of the communication network as well as up-to-date information is crucial for timely response and decision making. In the absence of this, the institution’s operations, as well as its image can be seriously dented leading to significant loses.

This problem can be compounded by the fact that the final data recipients are human users. Over-reliance on human operators is costly and time dependent, hence quality results may not be guaranteed due to the many human factors involved. Significant improvements on communication hardware, software, protocols and media have led to improved connectivity that has greatly increased performance (Bufe, 2011).

Information collection, storage and processing at the college, have over the years been bedeviled by various problems ranging from incorrect, incomplete and outdated information dissemination. Various technologies have emerged in an effort to address these problems, one of which has been application of a suitable Examination Information System, in carrying out the day-to-day operations. Effective course administration, examination processing and timely decision making are of utmost importance in a training institution. This is one of the main application areas of an examination information system that forms the overall basis of this project work.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

Most educational institutions have resorted to manual generation of their timetables which according to statistics takes much time to get completed and optimal. Even at the optimal stage of the manually generated timetable, there are still a few clashes and it is the lecturer that takes a clashing course that works out the logistics of the course so as to avoid the clash. In our case, there exists no system which currently builds and generates a set of timetables. Timetabling is done by experts and then deployed in the school website. Just like manual systems it has issues with generating a clash-free and complete timetable.

Also in the current system, students are faced with the task of always browsing through the school website for information about examination timetable. When there are changes to the timetable by admin, students who have gotten the timetable information prior to the changes will not be updated. This will make them hold on to old knowledge thereby missing exam or arriving at wrong date.

Also students who do not use internet enabled phones are left out. They are subjected to second-hand information since they depend on their colleague which use internet enabled phones for information.

With our proposed system, information about examination timetabling and changes are sent directly to students’ phone or email. With this, students, whether they use internet enabled phones or not are always updated about latest timetable information. Also it saves their time and data.


1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The main aim of this system is to design and implement an online SMS examination timetable alert system which is capable of sending examination timetable updates to students. To achieve the stated aim, the following specific objectives were laid out:

  1. Develop a examination scheduling system using optimized algorithm which is capable of creating clash-free timetables
  2. The system should be developed using web-based technologies and should be accessible by authorized users irrespective of their location
  3. The system should send SMS alerts to students about changes to examination timetable.

1.4 Significance of the Study

Apart from the ease of usage that comes with the developed system, the proposed system also provides an attractive responsive graphical front-end for the administrators and students. The system improves flexibility in timetable construction thereby saving time. Since it’s computerized, productivity is improved.

Manual timetabling requires experts with high knowledge of the requirement of all parties involved. With the developed system, this is not the case as any layman with little knowledge of computer can operate the system.


1.5 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This project revolves around sending exam timetable alerts to students in form of mail and SMS notifications directly from college website. Firstly all students are required to register in the system using their names, phone number and email. The user can login using username and password provided by admin. After login, the user makes changes in the settings if authorized. After update, he selects whether to send alert to students about the changes. The software has been developed using the most powerful and secured backend MySQL and the most widely accepted front end tool PHP with HTML & CSS and is capable of integrating any number of timetables.

The SMS sending feature uses online bulk SMS website API’s to send messages directly to students’ phone. Bulk SMS units are purchased from the website, as messages are sent, units get exhausted. One major limitation about this SMS feature is that messages are delivered to only students who are not in DND (Do Not Disturb) list. Students who activated DND in their phones will not receive the message. When message are sent, the sender ID is attached to the message as to notify students where the message is from, some bulk SMS websites do not honor this request properly, hence the sender ID is a random number provided by the website. This might confuse students on the authenticity of the message.


1.6 Project Methodology

Due to the nature of the requirements and the need for a dynamic and flexible system, the object oriented analysis and design approach, and more specifically the unified software development process has been proposed. The main reason for choosing this methodology is its iterative and incremental approach to systems development. It is also use case driven, architecture centric and also risk focused; among many other features. The proposed examination information system will enable users to perform their various academic and administrative duties efficiently, effectively and at minimal cost in a competitive, dynamic and distributed environment. The system will provide users with an interface to capture and access examination timetables, details of courses, as well as other course administration information.


1.7 Organization of the Study

This study is developed under five chapters. The first chapter introduces the research topic, stating the background of the intended project, statement of the problems, project objectives, its significance to the society and overall scope. The second chapter reviews related literature on timetabling and efficient algorithm to produce clash-free exam timetables. It analysis previous research works, their limitations and need for the development of better examination timetabling system.

The third chapter discusses the methodology used for the project development, the limitations of the currently used system and reasons the proposed system should be chosen over the current system. It also showcases the design processes of the new system using UML diagrams. Chapter four shows the actual running of the developed system. Here proper tests are done to check the strength of the developed system.

The developed system is analyzed to determine its conformation with the stated objectives. Chapter five gives the summary of the project, gives the conclusion and recommends approaches for better system.


1.8 Definition of Terms

i. Backend Application:

Serves indirectly in support of front-end services, usually by being closer to the required resource or having the capability to communicate with the required resource.

ii. Frontend Application:

This is an application that users interact with directly.

iii. Genetic Algorithm GA:

Is a model of machine learning which derived its behavior from metaphor of the process (es) of EVOLUTION in natural sciences.

iv. SMS API:

SMS API is well-defined software interface which enables code to send short messages via a SMS Gateway. As the infrastructures for SMS communications and the internet are mostly divided, SMS APIs are often used to ‘bridge the gap’ between telecommunications carrier networks and the wider web.

v. PHP Hypertext Preprocessor:

PHP is a server-side scripting language used in building dynamic content for the web.

vi. Extensible Markup Language XML:

Is a language used in designing android layouts.

vii. Timetable:

This is a table of events arranged according to the time when they take place.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

This study was carried out as is to reduce the intense manual effort being put into creating and developing school lecture timetables. The timetable automation system currently is a conceptual work in progress but has the capability to generate near-optimal timetables based on three unit courses with minimized course constraints.


5.2 Conclusion

Timetabling problem being the hard combinatorial problem that is would take more than just the application of only one principle. The timetable problem may only be solved when the constraints and allocations are clearly defined and simplified thoroughly and more than one principle is applied to it (i.e. A hybrid solution – a combination of different solution techniques).


5.3 Contributions to Knowledge

Timetable problem is NP-Complete. Timetable management has been made easier with this solution. It includes a web app to generate timetable and push to via SMS to registered numbers


5.4 Recommendations

  1. Having understudied the challenges that are contained in the manual timetable system, the following are recommended The timetable system developed should be broadened to accommodate the timetable management of the entire department (academic) in higher institution and made open to all students.
  2. Further works on developing a timetable system should be based this research work so as to utilize the incremental model of software development.
  3. A collaborative model of timetabling system which utilizes mobile operating systems should be built.

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