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Tutorial group diversification made easy

Tutorial group diversification made easy

Student research

MAASTRICHT. How to ensure that a tutorial group is as diverse as possible? Florentijn Hogerwerf, now a master’s student at Econometrics and Operations Research, developed an algorithm and wrote a bachelor’s thesis on the subject.

“When we had to choose a subject for our Marble research (compulsory at Econometrics, ed.), this immediately appealed to me because it is a real-life problem,” says Hogerwerf. At the School of Business and Economics, new tutorial groups have to be composed for every block for the MBA programme. “The faculty wants as much variation within the groups as possible. The male-to-female ratio has to be right, ideally members haven’t been together in a group before and there has to be a good mix of students who have just started and students who are almost finished. The programme lasts two years and students can start every six months. You take the same subjects as those who started the programme before you, only in a different order.”

So far, there was no efficient way to create such groups. Hogerwerf came up with an algorithm – too complicated to explain here – that can be calculated on the computer. “It had to come up with the best possible result, preferably as soon as possible. A computer doesn’t have infinite space. The more elaborate the program, the longer it takes. I tested a number of algorithms and eventually chose one with the comparatively best and fastest results.” The university actually wants to use the program. “I have in fact just started on it.”

Hogerwerf quite liked creating an algorithm. “Solving other people’s problems using mathematics. That’s the greatest thing there is. Programming is really my hobby. I have set up a small business with a friend. We develop apps for iOS, the iPhone’s operating system.”

He didn’t encounter many problems during the research. “In the beginning, there are always bugs in a program and sometimes it takes a while to find them. But that is not so bad: just leave me alone in my room where I can fiddle on the computer, great.”

However, Hogerwerf wouldn’t aspire an academic career. “My interest lies mainly in the practical side of things: applying knowledge. I therefore found the literature research part of the project the least pleasant aspect.”

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