Search methodologies for examination timetablingTools Abdul Rahman, Syariza (2012) Search methodologies for examination timetabling. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
AbstractWorking with examination timetabling is an extremely challenging task due to the difficulty of finding good quality solutions. Most of the studies in this area rely on improvement techniques to enhance the solution quality after generating an initial solution. Nevertheless, the initial solution generation itself can provide good solution quality even though the ordering strategies often using graph colouring heuristics, are typically quite simple. Indeed, there are examples where some of the produced solutions are better than the ones produced in the literature with an improvement phase. This research concentrates on constructive approaches which are based on squeaky wheel optimisation i.e. the focus is upon finding difficult examinations in their assignment and changing their position in a heuristic ordering. In the first phase, the work is focused on the squeaky wheel optimisation approach where the ordering is permutated in a block of examinations in order to find the best ordering. Heuristics are alternated during the search as each heuristic produces a different value of a heuristic modifier. This strategy could improve the solution quality when a stochastic process is incorporated. Motivated by this first phase, a squeaky wheel optimisation concept is then combined with graph colouring heuristics in a linear form with weights aggregation. The aim is to generalise the constructive approach using information from given heuristics for finding difficult examinations and it works well across tested problems. Each parameter is invoked with a normalisation strategy in order to generalise the specific problem data. In the next phase, the information obtained from the process of building an infeasible timetable is used. The examinations that caused infeasibility are given attention because, logically, they are hard to place in the timetable and so they are treated first. In the adaptive decomposition strategy, the aim is to automatically divide examinations into difficult and easy sets so as to give attention to difficult examinations. Within the easy set, a subset called the boundary set is used to accommodate shuffling strategies to change the given ordering of examinations. Consequently, the graph colouring heuristics are employed on those constructive approaches and it is shown that dynamic ordering is an effective way to permute the ordering. The next research chapter concentrates on the improvement approach where variable neighbourhood search with great deluge algorithm is investigated using various neighbourhood orderings and initialisation strategies. The approach incorporated with a repair mechanism in order to amend some of infeasible assignment and at the same time aiming to improve the solution quality.
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