I have always considered Operations Research as one of the most fascinating areas of Industrial Engineering. In particular, I am often amazed by the wide range of applications of OR since it has been successfully used for modeling complex problems arising in management, engineering, transportation, computer science, etc.
My objective has always been to continuously make the course even more clear, interesting, and well organized with lots of helpful examples and illustrations, good motivation and perspective, easy-to-find important material, and enjoyable homework. It should be noticed that, although it is probably not possible to give a course in operations research without assuming some knowledge of mathematics, I have always striven to make my course accessible not only to mathematicians, but also to any quantitatively minded student in business, economics, computer science or engineering.
Today’ students in introductory operations research courses tend to be very interested in learning more about the relevance of the material being covered, including how it is actually being used in practice. Therefore, without diluting any of the features of the theoretical aspect of operations research, the motivation and excitement of the students is increased if the course is more “real world” oriented. One thrust in this direction consists in emphasizing on the kinds of software that practitioners use. One option is to use the increasingly popular spreadsheet approach with Excel and its Solver. Also, applications of some modeling languages, which can be called to solve a model once it has been appropriately formulated, should be illustrated (MPL, CONOPT, Microsoft Project, LINDO, CPLEX.) Interactive routines should also be included in order to enable the student to interactively execute the algorithms of operations research, making the needed decision at each step while the computer does the needed arithmetic. By enabling the student to focus on concepts rather than mindless number crunching when doing homework to learn an algorithm, these interactive routines make the learning process far more efficient and effective as well as more stimulating.
Another major interesting feature is to include various cases, embedded in a realistic setting and employing a stimulating storytelling approach, at the end of each chapter. The cases generally require relatively challenging and comprehensive analyses with substantial use of the computer. Therefore, they are suitable for student projects, working either individually or in teams, and can then lead to class discussion of the analysis.
Finally, much emphasis has to be placed on providing perspective in terms of what is actually happening in the practice of operations research: What kinds of applications are occurring? What sizes of problems are being solved? Which models and techniques are being used most widely? What are their shortcomings and what new developments are beginning to address these shortcomings? These kinds of questions have to be addressed in order to convey the relevance of the techniques under discussion.