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C S S R 0 8’ 0 9 14 - 15 March 2009

C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

EXAMINATION INVIGILATION SCHEDULING SYSTEM IN


OPTIMISING LECTURERS’ PREFERENCE

Associate Professor Ong Mooi Lian1, Liew Lee Hung2 and Jacqueline Sim3
1
Faculty of Civil Engineering, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Kota Samarahan, SARAWAK
2
Faculty of Information Technology & Quantitative Sciences, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Kota Samarahan,
SARAWAK
3
Academy of Language Studies, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Kota Samarahan, SARAWAK
ongml@sarawak.uitm.edu.my
lhliew@sarawak.uitm.edu.my
jacqueline@sarawak.uitm.edu.my

ABSTRACT

The examination invigilation scheduling system is purposed to facilitate the preparation of


examination invigilation schedules so as to reduce manual involvement and the amount of time taken
to prepare examination invigilation schedules. This system is made possible with the creation of a
database that collects information pertaining to the examination invigilation schedules such as
lecturers’ preferences of invigilation dates and time and their constraints. Besides, the system also
allows lecturers to provide feedback and any other relevant information to the invigilation scheduling
committee. On top of that, being computer-aided and easily accessible by lecturers online, the lecturers
can utilise the system at their own convenience. When the invigilation schedule is ready, the lecturers
can obtain a summary of their individual invigilation duty, and view the schedule as well as all the
relevant invigilation rules and regulations within and outside the office through the Internet. This
system benefits especially the Academic Administration Office of institutions of higher learning
because it enables them to produce comprehensive examination invigilation schedule. This automated
way of capturing, optimising and disseminating invigilation information paves the way for the
development of a systematic approach in preparing examination invigilation schedules. With that,
suitable problem-solving support systems which will aid the process of computerising examination
invigilation scheduling system can be identified. This examination invigilation scheduling system
which has been found to be successful in UiTM Sarawak since 1995 has been going through
continuous improvement.

Keywords: invigilation, scheduling, database, online, preferences

1. INTRODUCTION

Final examination invigilation of students at Universiti Teknologi MARA Negeri Sarawak Samarahan
Campus (UiTM Sarawak) involves all the lecturing staff who follows a set of invigilation schedule that is
prepared manually by fellow lecturers in the university. Preparing the examination invigilation schedule
has always been in itself a challenging task as the invigilation schedule committee has to take into
consideration numerous factors and lecturers’ constraints such as getting the invigilation schedules ready
within a limited time frame, ensuring the invigilation duties assigned to the lecturers do not disrupt their
marking and that the lecturers do not invigilate their own subjects.

Prior to the present invigilation scheduling committee taking over the responsibility of preparing the
invigilation schedules, invigilation duties were assigned randomly and, hence, there were a lot of mutual
swapping amongst the lecturers resulting in confusion, misunderstandings and complaints on uneven duty
distribution. Thus, when the present invigilation scheduling committee took over the task of invigilation
Paper number: [1897541]
C S S R 0 8’ 0 9 14 - 15 March 2009
C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

scheduling in 2004, they saw the need for a systematic and yet innovative approach to produce invigilation
schedules that could minimise errors and simultaneously allowed lecturers to request for their preferred
invigilation dates and time. The system worked well but eventually with the increasing amount of data,
provided by the growing population of lecturers, on the time and dates of their examination papers
coupled with their preferred invigilation dates, the committee which had been manually transferring data
into the computer realised an urgent need for a computer-aided system that could minimise manual
involvement and processing time in data handling.

Therefore, this system which is the examination invigilation scheduling system (ISS) aims to reduce
manual involvement and time taken by the scheduling committee in developing a systematic approach in
the preparation of invigilation schedules that can capture the lecturers’ preference online. With this in
mind, the committee creates a centralised database for collecting information, and identifies suitable
software systems which facilitates the data processing process and supports the ISS on-line. Thus, the
examination invigilation schedules can be optimised based on the preferences of lecturers and the
constraints faced.

The development of this system is significant as it is capable of minimising the involvement and time
spent by the committee on the preparation of invigilation schedules. Besides, it ensures consistency,
reliability and continuity in the invigilation schedules produced in future semesters. The management of
UiTM Sarawak through the Final Examination Unit in the Academic Administration Office will then be
able to have full control over the final examination. The lecturers’ preferences will be optimised with the
constraints controlled, and the number of alterations made at the Examination Operation Room to the final
list of invigilators will be greatly reduced

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

Twenty-nine per cent of the universities surveyed by Burke et al. (1996) agree that the task of
scheduling invigilators is a major problem. However, he adds that some universities have examination
schedules that are so well-planned that they can be reused with “only a small alteration” (Burke et al.,
1996: 7). Burke stresses that the quality of any schedule lies in its “usability and requirements of those
who are subject to it” (Burke et al., 1996: 9). This type of system has to be flexible enough to successfully
create schedules that not only allow room for any minor changes to be made to the master schedule but
have also considered all the various constraints. According to Hishammuddin et al. (2004), there are
various methodologies on examination scheduling which include constraint programming, graph colouring
and metaheuristic approaches such as genetic algorithms, tabu search, simulated annealing, the great
deluge algorithm and hybridised methods. Since the introduction of the fuzzy methodologies into the
scene of scheduling, it has experienced much success especially in maintenance scheduling (Dahal,
Aldridge and McDonald, 1999), manpower allocation, aircrew roistering (Teodorovic et al.,1998), and
driver scheduling (Li and Kwan, 2003). Hishammuddin and his team of researchers further investigate a
fuzzy expert system that is used simultaneously with the multiple ordering criteria in trying to give a better
representation of the challenges encountered in examination scheduling. Their study led them to discover
that the “exploration of different methodologies to achieve multi-criteria orderings may be beneficial”
(Hishammuddin et al., 2004: 13). Burke et al. (2000) reiterates that various types of constraints which
cannot be made possible using a single objective function can be handled by the multi-criteria approach.
The system in this project utilises the multi-criteria modeling in its ISS.

Burke et al.’s (1996) findings further reveal that automated timetabling packages are capable of
reducing greatly the time spent on preparing examination schedules. This is supported by Junginger
(1986) who discovers that using automated systems to prepare school timetables can save as much as 75
per cent of the time taken to plan the timetable using other non-automated systems.

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C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

Thus, the invigilation scheduling committee of UiTM Sarawak will benefit greatly with a computerised
ISS. The committee has since adopted an approach that can produce schedules that optimises both the
lecturers’ preferences and the usage of manpower through the use of computer-aided applications such as
MS Excel spreadsheets, Dream Weaver and MS Access.

This approach, tested and proven over the past semesters, has produced schedules which are fairer in
terms of the distribution of lecturers’ invigilation duties. Besides, the committee’s manual involvement in
scheduling has been drastically reduced with the introduction of these computer-aided applications in the
scheduling process. The committee has also initiated a platform of communication using computer-aided
on-line system to allow lecturers to:

i. view the examination time table;


ii. choose their preferred invigilation time slots;
iii. specify the examination date and time of their own subjects; and
iv. view their individual invigilation schedule and final examination/invigilation timetable.

3. METHODOLOGY

ISS comprises the development of an online system for data collection and dissemination of assigned
invigilation duties, and a systematic approach in assigning duties. There are three important modules to
the online ISS, and each of them is used in different stages of the scheduling process. Figure 1 shows the
data flow diagram of the ISS.

Figure 1: A data flow diagram (level 0) of the ISS online system

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C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

The three online ISS modules are:

3.1 Module 1: Lecturer Identification

Module 1 is linked to a database which contains the latest name list of lecturers in UiTM Sarawak and
their particulars which will be used for identification purpose. The login page of this module requires the
lecturer to provide his user name and password for verification of his identity and authorisation of his
access to the application. Both Modules 2 and 3 begin with this same identification process.

3.2 Module 2: Online Preferences Registration

The lecturers will be informed online once the final examinations timetable is uploaded onto the ISS
web page. Then, they can register their preferred invigilation time slots via the internal email system.
There are five web pages for gathering information from lecturers. Page 1 (Lecturer Identification) which
displays the lecturer’s personal particulars will request the lecturer to indicate if all his subjects are based
on 100% coursework. A ‘Yes’ answer will lead the lecturer to Page 2 (Preferred Working Day Selection)
to begin the selection process for his preferred time slots. If the lecturer’s answer is ‘No’, he proceeds to
Page 3 (Own Subject) where he provides information on all the subjects he teaches, and their respective
examination dates and time. After that, the lecturer will be redirected to Page 2 to choose his preferred
weekday time slots.

Once this is completed, the lecturer will proceed to Page 4 (Preferred Non-Working Day Selection)
where he chooses his preferred dates and time for non-working days which will include weekends and any
non-working weekdays the examinations are held. The lecturer indicates in a column whether the specific
time slot chosen coincides with his own paper. Invigilating on a non-working day is regarded as
equivalent to invigilating twice on a working day, so some lecturers prefer to invigilate on non-working
day so that they can reduce the number of invigilation duties by one weekday. In a case like this, the
lecturer will have to indicate whether he chooses to invigilate on that particular non-working day slot.

Page 5 (Comment page) allows the lecturer to include any comments while on Page 6, a summary of
all the information entered is displayed. The system allows the lecturer to edit or change any of the entries
displayed on the summary page by clicking the ‘edit’ button, and the only data that cannot be changed is
the list of subjects he is lecturing. The system will automatically display his entries for each page when he
next logs in before the application process is closed. After the specified period for applying for preferred
invigilation slots expires, the system will be closed, and the data will be extracted from the database of the
online system for processing and assigning of invigilation duties.

3.3 Module 3: Invigilation Schedule Retrieval

Once the invigilation schedule is prepared, the relevant information will be uploaded to Module 3 of
ISS and then made accessible to all the lecturers. Upon successful login, the system will show a page with
instructions for the invigilators from the Campus Director. The lecturer will click the “YES” button at the
bottom of the page to indicate that he has read the instructions and understood his responsibility. The
system will then lead the lecturer to the next page or else a pop-up message box will appear to instruct him
to read the instructions given, and the web page will be redirected to the Responsibilities of Invigilators
page. These instructions can be printed using a link provided on the top of the web page.

On the following page, the system will retrieve the individual summary of each lecturer’s invigilation
duties from the database using the user name in the login page for identification. Here, the lecturer can
view and print his individual invigilation schedule. This page also allows the lecturer to submit feedback
to the committee regarding his personal schedule. The individual invigilation schedule which is posted in
Portable Document Format (PDF) can only be viewed by the lecturer concerned but the final examinations
Paper number: [1897541]
C S S R 0 8’ 0 9 14 - 15 March 2009
C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

timetable and the master invigilation schedule which contains complete information on the final
examinations and invigilation duties can be viewed by everybody.

4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS

ISS is an efficient tool in data collection and information dissemination as it has successfully reduced
the mannual involvement and time taken by the scheduling committee in preparing the invigilation
schedule. Table 1 compares the online system and the manual way of filling in invigilation preference
forms.

Table 1: A comparison between ISS and the manual system in filling in invigilation preference forms

Time required for performing the task


Task
Online system Manual system
Posting of final Uploading onto Printing and binding
examination timetable webpage 10 mins. timetable 60 mins.
for viewing

Preparing data in soft Downloading 10 mins. Before: 4 hrs.


format before assigning from online Printing of forms for
duties system filling in preferences and
other information.
Preparing boxes for
collecting completed
forms.

After:
Sorting, numbering 16 hrs.
completed forms.
Typing and transferring
data.
Posting completed
Uploading onto Printing and binding
invigilation schedule 10 mins. 60 mins.
the webpage timetable

List of invigilators’
Uploading onto Printing, binding and
duties and 10 mins. 8 hrs.
the webpage distributing
responsibilities

An online survey was conducted amongst the UiTM Sarawak lecturers on their satisfaction level of the
effectiveness of ISS as an efficient communicative tool, and whether ISS was user-friendly enough to
allow them to enter their invigilation preferences at their own convenience. The responses received were
very encouraging judging from the fact that more than 80 per cent of 244 lecturers who participated in this
survey agreed that they were very satisfied with what ISS has to offer, and, that is, as a user-friendly and
an efficient communicative tool in optimising their invigilation preferences. The analysis of the survey is
shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3. Most of the lecturers who indicated their invigilation preferences were
often allocated the dates and time they requested for.

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C S S R 0 8’ 0 9 14 - 15 March 2009
C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

Figure 2: The result of the survey question on ‘The online system allows me to enter my invigilation
preferences at my own convenience’

Figure 3: The result of the survey question on ‘ISS is an efficient way of communicating with the
scheduling committee on my constraints and preferences’

5. CONCLUSIONS

ISS has proven to be successful in optimising lecturers’ preferences and constraints in examination
invigilation besides reducing the manual involvement and time taken to prepare the schedules. Ever since
the introduction of ISS in UiTM Sarawak, the system has been constantly upgraded and its automation
increased. This innovative online system facilitates communication between UiTM Sarawak lecturers and
the ISS committee in optimising the examination invigilation schedules.

Paper number: [1897541]


C S S R 0 8’ 0 9 14 - 15 March 2009
C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

There are many people who had been instrumental in the completion of this project and the ISS
committee regards them in high esteem for being part of the process of creating a more efficient and user-
friendlier examination invigilation scheduling system.

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