Improving the Efficiency of Course Bidding at Business Schools: Field and Laboratory Studies
Marketing Science, Vol. 27, pp. 262-282, March/April 2008
48 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2008
Date Written: March 14, 2007
Registrars' offices at most universities face the daunting task of allocating course seats to students. Since demand exceeds supply for many courses, course allocation needs to be done equitably and efficiently. Many schools use bidding systems where student bids are used both to infer preferences over courses and to determine student priorities for courses. However, this dual role of bids can result in course allocations not being market outcomes and unnecessary efficiency loss, which can potentially be avoided with the use of an appropriate market mechanism.
We report the result of field and laboratory studies that compare a typical course bidding mechanism with the alternate Gale-Shapley Pareto-dominant market mechanism. Results from the field study (conducted at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan) suggest that using the latter could vastly improve efficiency of course allocation systems while facilitating market outcomes. Laboratory experiments with greater design control confirm the superior efficiency of the Gale-Shapley mechanism. The paper tests theory which has important practical implications since it has the potential to affect the learning experience of very large numbers of students enrolled in educational institutions.
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