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We examine how using information on unconstrained demand can improve operational decisions. Specifically, we examine the widespread problem of developing course schedules in not-for-profit university settings. We investigate the potential benefit of incorporating, into the scheduling process, information on the unconstrained demand of students for courses. Prior to this study, the status quo in our college, like that in a large proportion of university settings, was building the course schedule to avoid time conflicts between required courses and to minimize time conflicts between designated groups of courses, such as electives in a particular area. Compared to the status quo approach, we find that, based on three semester's worth of actual data, an approach that explicitly considers students’ course preferences improves a student-based metric of schedule quality on the order of over 4% (which is the equivalent, in our setting, of improving service for over 20% of students).


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© Elsevier. Final version published as: Thompson, G. M. (2005). Using information on unconstrained student demand to improve university course schedules. Journal of Operations Management, 23(2), 197-208. doi:10.1016/j.jom.2004.07.006
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.