An Integer Programming Model with Time-Based Preference

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Course Assignment: An Integer Programming Model with Time-based Preference

Ayman Abd El Karim Mohammad Hazaymeh, Razamin Ramli*, Engku Muhammad Nazri Engku Abu Bakar, Ang Chooi Leng

College of Arts and Sciences, Universiti Utara Malaysia
06010 Sintok, Kedah
Email:, {razamin, enazri, ang}


Assigning of lecturers to courses is an important administrative task that must be performed in every academic department or faculty each semester. It is a difficult process due to the increasing number of students, and continuous increase in the number of courses offered. Furthermore, the lecturer-course assignment problem is now becoming more complicated and tedious since many lecturers’ preferences need to be satisfied as much as possible. One of the preference criteria is related to time of classes. In this paper, an Integer Programming (IP) model was designed and tested to solve the lecturer-course assignment problem at a faculty in Universiti Utara Malaysia. The IP model was developed to produce an equitable assignment of lecturers to courses based on time preference. Output and comparison of results are presented.

Keywords: lecturer-course assignment, lecturers' preference, time preference and integer programming

*Author of correspondence


Timetabling is always useful in any system that needs to be well organized, for example universities and schools. Different techniques can be used to solve scheduling and timetabling problems. Although these areas seem very similar and are inter-connected, scheduling and timetabling have slightly different meaning in different environments (Bartak and Rudova, 2001).

In general, scheduling problem is defined as the process that deals with the exact allocation of resources to activities over time, i.e. finding a resource that will process the activity and finding the time of processing )Brusoni et al., 1996(. On the other hand, a timetabling problem consists of fixing in time and space, a sequence of meetings between teachers and students, in a prefixed period of time, and satisfying a set of constraints of several different kinds (Bartak and Rudova, 2001). Thus, timetabling is a specific type of scheduling problem (Wren, 1996). Schaerf (1999) classifies timetabling problems at educational institutions as school timetabling, course timetabling, and examination timetabling as indicated in Figure 1. [pic]

Figure1: Classification of educational timetabling problems (Gunawan et al., 2006) The focus of this paper is on the Course Timetabling, specifically the lecturer-course assignment. The problem faced in the lecturer-course assignment is how to assign lecturers to courses and course sections by taking some factors into consideration, such as lecturers’ preferences and the number of courses offered.

2.Background of the problem

The Faculty of Accountancy (FA), Universiti Utara Malaysia, has two departments, namely Department of Accounting, and Department of Audit and Information Systems (AIS). Due to increasing emphasis on producing marketable graduates with specialized accounting skills, there is thus an increase in the number of courses offered. In addition, due to the variety and diversity of constraints (hard and soft) that need to be satisfied, the traditional way of manually constructing course timetabling is tedious and no longer effective.

A systematic and efficient technique for course timetabling is needed in order to fulfill all requirements and at the same time, satisfy some soft constraints, such as lecturers’ preferences. A study was undertaken with the objective to generate an efficient mathematical model to assign lecturers to courses, such that it satisfies the lecturers’ preferences for timeslots.

3.Previous related work

A timetable is considered effective when it is feasible and can be realized by the institution. It is considered satisfactory when it carries certain...
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