Client: Pathways to Education Toronto
Year: 2015

The challenge

Pathways to Education is a Canadian non-profit providing academic support to youth in low-income neighbourhoods. The organization's largest program in Toronto's Regent Park neighbourhood has over 800 students and over 100 volunteers.

Four nights a week, volunteer tutors help students in subjects ranging from English to Physics. Each tutor volunteers one night per week and can cover a number of subjects. Based on this information, program coordinators schedule tutors to nights such that 1) tutors' availabilities are respected, 2) a sufficient number of tutors are present each night, and 3) the different subjects are covered. It was an arduous task. Manually coming up with a schedule took a great deal of effort and often several days of work.

Our solution

A web application that allows Pathways staff to input volunteer data, specify demands, and with the click of a button, get the optimal schedule within 30 seconds. The interface allows staff to make changes to the schedule and see immediately how their changes affect subject coverage.

The scheduling problem is modelled mathematically as a mixed-integer programming problem.

Screenshot Pathways Scheduler
  • Checkmark Time savings of ~30 hours per semester. Staff can spend less time on this "back-room" process and more time with the students and volunteers.
  • Checkmark The schedule is better. Students can rely on there being a tutor who can help with their subject no matter which session they attend.
  • Checkmark The UI gives staff an overview of subject-coverage and provides targets for tutor recruiting in subjects that are under-represented.
  • Checkmark Higher volunteer retention, as personal schedules can be more easily accommodated.

Plank has helped us run our program more effectively and efficiently, saving us on average 30 hours every semester — time that we now use to enhance our services and engage with our volunteers and students!

— Kim Outten, Volunteer Manager