ENGSCI 755 : Decision Making in Engineering


2024 Semester Two (1245) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Introduction to techniques for decision making in engineering systems including decision heuristics, simple prioritisation, outranking approaches, analytic hierarchy process, application to group decision making.

Course Overview

This course offers an introduction to the context and background of decision making problems. One feature is that real-world decisions usually have multiple conflicting goals so that it is often unclear what the best decision is. In lectures we introduce different decision making tools from one or more of the following areas, demonstrate their application to case studies and finally critically review them:
- Simple prioritisation, i.e.~ranking goals in order of importance or weighting them.
- Multi-attribute value theory: Decision maker structures the problem, and specifies their values and weights and thus develops a decision model.
- Outranking methods: Decision maker preference is queried through pairwise comparisons of options.
- Analytic Hierarchy Process: The decision maker initially defines hierarchies of goals and subgoals. The decision maker iteratively ranks these goals among each other and eventually reaches a measure of their preference and hence the best decision.
- Multi-attribute utility theory: Taking uncertainty into account in decision making.

There will be lectures, some tutorials and some computer labs. After this introduction to decision making methods, students get the chance to apply their knowledge to a project where they independently work on an Engineering decision making problem of their own choice. For the final component of this course, students will independently review a research paper or book chapter on case studies using the introduced techniques. Alternatively, students may also review a paper or book chapter on the mathematical theory behind those techniques. Students then present a summary of the paper they reviewed to fellow students in short presentations. Each student can choose from a selection of suggested papers or suggest an alternative source after discussing with course instructors.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: ENGSCI 211 or MATHS 250

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 6: Communication

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Be able to plan, justify and evaluate decisions based on decision making concepts taught in this course. This includes correctly classifying a decision making problem and correctly constructing a decision making model in the context of its theoretical foundation. (Capability 3.1)
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of basic decision making concepts by identifying situations in which decision heuristics are applied, understanding the properties of decision heuristics in contrast to more formal structured decision making approaches. (Capability 3.1)
  3. Communicate the steps and outcomes of a multi-criteria decision making process to peers in written, and oral form. (Capability 6.1)
  4. Be able to apply multiattribute value theory to a decision making problem and use it to analyse and evaluate different alternatives ultimately arriving at a decision, after performing sensitivity analysis of critical aspects of the decision making process. (Capability 3.1 and 4.1)
  5. Be able to undertake an AHP analysis of a decision problem and use it to derive a preferred decision (Capability 3.1)
  6. Demonstrate an understanding of the basic theoretical concepts of outranking approaches, and be able to apply different outranking methods do model decision making problems (Capability 3.1)
  7. Demonstrate an understanding of Multiattribute value theory for modelling decision making problems under uncertainty, from theoretical to practical applications (Capability 3.1)
  8. Be able to conduct multicriteria decision analysis based on decision analysis software (Capability 3.1)
  9. Apply a multicriteria decision making method of your choice to model a decision making problem of your choice and carefully describe the modelling process, its outcomes and sensitivity analysis (Capability 3.1 and 4.1)
  10. Analyse and critically evaluate a research paper or book chapter in the field of multicriteria decision analaysis and present its content (with your critical evaluation) to peers. (Capability 3.1, 4.1 and 6.1)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignment 10% Individual Coursework
Tests 10% Individual Test
Project 15% Individual Coursework
Presentation 15% Group & Individual Coursework
Final Exam 45% Individual Examination
Laboratories 5% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Final Exam
Assignment: covers theory and basic applications of decision making methods.
Project: an independent and individual application of decision making to a decision making problem of your choice with detailed write-up of the steps involved, analysis of decision problem, outcome and sensitivity analysis.
Presentation: Students will independently review a research paper or book chapter on case studies using the introduced techniques. Alternatively, students may also review a paper or book chapter on the mathematical theory behind those techniques. Students then present a summary of the paper they reviewed to fellow students in short presentations. Each student can choose from a selection of suggested papers or suggest an alternative source after discussing with course instructors.
The papers will be presented in the form of mini-lectures that cover related topics. Students in one session need to collaborate in organising content (avoiding repetition, etc).
Tests: Tests will cover recent material in class to encourage timely revision of concepts
Exam: The final exam is a short 2-hour exam. Students must sit the exam to pass the course. Otherwise, a DNS (did not sit) result will be returned.

The final mark for the course will not exceed the exam mark by more than 10%

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 22 hours of lectures (with a few in-class tutorials), 2 hours of computer labs (with an additional 4 hours to complete / revise computer lab content), 12 hours of seminar presentations (all students are expected to attended their peers' presentations), 25 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 85 hours of work on assignment, project, presentation and test / exam preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including lectures, labs, tutorials, peer presentations to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs, some tutorials and peer presentations will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
Attendance on campus may be required for the tests.
The labs and project require software that is only available in the Engineering Science computer labs.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

There is a Talis reading list that points to the main resources, as well as topics for the student seminar presentations.
The labs and project require software that is only available in the Engineering Science computer labs.

Health & Safety

Students are expected to adhere to the guidelines outlined in the Health and Safety section of the Engineering Undergraduate Handbook

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Student feedback suggested more in-class examples. This is useful feedback, and more worked examples, perhaps delivered in tutorial sessions will be planned for next time.

Some students find the course somewhat mathematical as it discusses both decision making methodologies (and their application) as well as the underlying mathematical concepts. For some (but not too many) students the level of mathematical content is challenging, which is partly due to the very mixed background of students in this course. Since this is a relatively small class there is an opportunity to ask lots of questions during class or on Piazza as well as during the lecturers' office hours, and we encourage students to do so.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website http://disability.auckland.ac.nz

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/academic-information/exams-and-final-results/during-exams/aegrotat-and-compassionate-consideration.html.

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/forms-policies-and-guidelines/student-policies-and-guidelines/student-charter.html.


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 06/11/2023 03:53 p.m.