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Course Spotlight: Constrained Optimization

Say you operate a tank farm (to store and sell fuel). How much of each fuel grade should you buy? You have specified flow and storage capacities, constraints on what types of fuels can be stored in which tanks, prior contractual obligations about minimum monthly deliveries and incoming supplies, plus the opportunity to sell on the spot market. You must also figure in uncertainties about future fuel prices.

This is a “constrained optimization” problem, and problems like this are the subject of:

Jan 9 – Feb 6: Introduction to Optimization

“Introduction to Optimization” will teach you how to apply linear programming to complex systems to make better decisions – decisions that increase revenue, decrease costs, or improve efficiency of operation. The course introduces the role of mathematical models in decision-making, then covers how to formulate basic linear programming models for decision problems where multiple decision need to be made in the best possible way, while simultaneously satisfying a number of logical conditions (or constraints).

The instructor, Cliff T. Ragsdale, is Bank of America Professor of Business Information Technology at Virginia Tech, and author of the course text “Spreadsheet Modeling and Decision Analysis: A Practical Introduction to Management Science,” now in its sixth edition.

Participants can ask questions and exchange comments with Dr. Ragsdale via a private discussion board during the course. As in all online courses at, there are no set hours when you must be online; we estimate you will need about 15 hours per week.

Software: Solver Platform for Education, the Excel add-in from Frontline systems that performs risk analysis, simulation, optimization, decision trees and more. You’ll get a license to use Solver software with the course.


BTW, Prof. Ragsdale also teaches Advanced Optimization (Sep 25) and Risk Simulation (May 1) and Queuing; there is a $200 tuition discount if you register for all three at the same time.