Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2012

Summary of projects

Project title

Investigation, evaluation and implementation of a pilot of online maths support to implement eLearning in mathematics

Project leader

Brendan Cooney

Project team

Anthony Micheletto

Project summary

Students entering RMIT TAFE and higher education programs from both Australia and overseas have increasingly diverse backgrounds in mathematics. Weaker students will require ongoing assistance if they are to succeed and more able students are most likely to achieve their full potential if they have access to appropriate support. Some students are able to attend the Study and Learning Centre maths Drop-In service and preparation workshops but for others face-to-face services may not be accessible or convenient.

Communicating in mathematical language poses significant difficulties via distance learning. In applications such as lecture notes, production of tests and publishing of solutions to a large cohort of students the time and resources needed to make use of software such as mathtype is justified and desirable. Such documents are re-usable and have significant value as a course resource. However it is not feasible to use these programs in the interchange required to submit and respond to individual mathematical queries. A key element of this investigation was the ability of available hardware and software to communicate more efficiently the symbols and diagrams of mathematical discourse in online mathematics learning support.

The purpose of the project was to explore and evaluate mechanisms by which an individual student in any course throughout RMIT could submit a mathematically based problem online and receive a reply from a maths teacher in a reasonable time frame.

The project was not a pedagogical assessment of the merits of online mathematical learning support, although this may be looked at in the future.

Outcomes

The technologies investigated were:

  • Blackboard
  • Collaborate
  • Lectopia/Echo360
  • PC & Wacom tablet
  • Smart-Thinking
  • LogiTech Video Camera
  • Hand Written Scanned document
  • IAnnotate Application on iPad
  • UPad Application on iPad
  • Smartpen

In examining the ability of the hardware and software combinations to easily communicate essential mathematical symbols and diagrams, each technology was assessed against a set of criteria for ease of use by teachers and students, cost, and current utilisation.

The technologies that performed the best against these criteria were:

  • Smartpen
  • Hand Written Scanned document
  • UPad Application on iPad

These technologies will now be used in addressing student submissions from the Ask a Maths Teacher facility on RMIT Learning Lab.

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