Threshold effects in the Teaching Space Allocation Problem with Splitting

Paul McMullan, Barry McCollum, C. Beyrouthy, E.K. Burke, D. Landa-Silva, A.J. Parke

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Universities aim for good “Space Management” so as to use the teaching space efficiently. Part of this task is to assign rooms and time-slots to teaching activities with limited numbers and capacities of lecture theaters, seminar rooms, etc. It is also common that some teaching activities require splitting into multiple events. For example, lectures can be too large to fit in one room or good teaching practice requires that seminars/tutorials are taught in small groups. Then, space management involves decisions on splitting as well as the assignments to rooms and time-slots. These decisions must be made whilst satisfying the pedagogic requirements of the institution and constraints on space resources. The efficiency of such management can be measured by the “utilisation”: the percentage of available seat-hours actually used. In many institutions, the observed utilisation is unacceptably low, and this provides our underlying motivation: to study the factors that affect teaching space utilisation, with the goal of improving it. We give a brief introduction to our work in this area, and then introduce a specific model for splitting. We present experimental results that show threshold phenomena and associated easy-hard-easy patterns of computational difficulty. We discuss why such behaviour is of importance for space management.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Operational Research
Publication statusAccepted - Jan 2011


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