All posts by Chris

Director of E-Learning, School of Mathematics & Statistics

NUTELA Small Grants Fund: Short videos as an additional learning resource

Whilst I’m normally on this blog talking about Numbas, this post is dedicated to something else that I take a keen interest in: lecture capture. It describes a pilot project that was funded by the NUTELA group to deploy short, re-purposed ReCap videos in a large engineering module. These were made available to students in addition to the full length ReCap lecture capture, and sat alongside formative tests associated with the content.An example video

A disclaimer, before I go any further… this is a dump of my current thoughts on the topic, and it will save the next person who asks me about ReCap/short videos from suffering me talking at them for an hour! As a result, it’s part project report, opinion piece and tutorial! Despite lacking any focus whatsoever, I hope that you find something interesting…

Motivation

I have been interested for some time in the use of lecture capture. I originally wasn’t a fan, mainly citing a hatred of hearing my own voice!  I have managed to get over that though, and spend a lot of time in computer clusters, where I see first-hand the benefits of ReCap for students. I am particularly fond of telling the story of asking a student which ‘psych-up’ music he was listening to on his headphones before a big class test… he was listening to me giving a lecture!

So I read with interest the results of the 2017 NUSU survey “How Students use ReCap”, and in particular these two results:

How Students use ReCap 2017 Report

Whilst the opportunity to catch up on lectures is clearly very beneficial – in particular, as the associated report mentions, for students with disabilities and those competing in elite sport (and I’ll also throw in those with families or caring responsibilities) – it does not appear to be the primary use of ReCap. This aligns completely with what I see in our computer clusters, which is predominantly students using the resource to prepare for class tests and exams.

Let me reiterate that I’m a big fan of the ReCap provision, before going on to make the following two observations:

1) Our current set up of teaching resources is often very siloed within the VLE. Typically a module might have a separate Blackboard folder for each of lecture notes, additional resources, formative assessments, whatever else… and certainly the default is a separate folder of ReCap videos. But if students are revising a topic for an exam, putting practicalities aside, it seems to make sense for the video content on a topic to sit side-by-side with the other course material.

This was just one of the motivations for our course material tool “Coursebuilder” (which will be the topic of my next blog post here as it happens), to have a stronger integration between different course resources. And it is surprisingly easy (after discovering the method as part of this project) to embed videos next to your lecture notes in Blackboard itself. See the Process for creating videos section below.

2) Slightly more pertinent to this post, our ReCap videos are presented to students as a separate video for each teaching session. Again from a practicality perspective, this seems like the only sensible thing to do, but from the student perspective, is this box-set of lectures the best way for the “series” to be divided, if it is being used for revision? Often topics are split over multiple lectures, or multiple topics are covered in one lecture. In maths, the subject of this project, lectures often contain distinct sections of theory and application/exercises. The student might only be interested in one of those when they come to revise.

A note on the indexing of ReCap videos for mathematics… You may have noticed that ReCap videos containing PowerPoint automatically generate a list of contents. Panopto basically identifies section headings in the presentation. In mathematics, it is rare to see a PowerPoint presentation, they are usually delivered using the visualiser or whiteboard, or as a LaTeX document. Content information  can be added, but only manually after the fact.

The Project

Last Spring, colleagues in engineering maths, David Swailes and John Appleby, approached me to discuss short videos in the ENG1001 Engineering Mathematics module. David had heard of the work of Professor Chris Howls at the University of Southampton, who had successfully used short personal capture videos to enhance a calculus course. We discussed several possible formats for short videos, including something on the lines of what Chris had done, but the nature of the ENG1001 module lent itself to a slightly different and straightforward approach: to re-use a previous year’s ReCap collection. This is because almost precisely the same module content has been delivered (very successfully) over a number of years; last year’s ReCap videos would be almost identical to this year’s.

Continue reading NUTELA Small Grants Fund: Short videos as an additional learning resource

Numbas workshop and new version

We have just released another major version of Numbas, incorporating some exciting new developments which greatly expand Numbas’ capabilities. We’re also looking forward to running a workshop here at Newcastle University next month, ideal for those of you who would like to get started with maths e-assessment!

Introduction to Numbas workshop – 18th June

We are hosting an Introduction to Numbas workshop on 18th June, 10am-12pm, as part of the Learning and Teaching Development Programme.  This hands-on session is ideal for academic or technical staff who would like to create mathematical e-assessments and deploy them through Blackboard.

The session will cover:

·         getting started on the Numbas public database and editor

·         selecting existing questions to make tests

·         writing your own questions

·         using the Numbas tool in Blackboard

You can book on to the workshop via elements.ncl.ac.uk. Or for more information, drop us an e-mail to numbas@ncl.ac.uk

New release of Numbas

Over the past few months, Christian has been working tirelessly towards the release of Numbas v4.0, with a number of brilliant new features.

Full details can be found in this blog post on the Numbas website. They include:

  • a new pattern-matching system allowing, for example, to specify a pattern that a student’s mathematical expression must match in order to be marked correct.
  • more number types, including support for very small and large quantities using scientific notation. Useful for chemists and the like!
  • a new extension for geometrical figures, with particular attention to accessibility.

In addition, questions and exams on the Numbas Editor can now be shared with a permanent link. You can send a link to your students, to have a go at a question or test without any scores being recorded, like this. And items are embeddable, for example in a blog post, just like this one!

That one is from our Transition to University project, a collection of questions and tests written by students, alongside our e-learning unit, to support students making the transition from school to university.

I hope to see some of you at the Numbas workshop in June. Otherwise, if you are interested in finding out more about Numbas please don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail to christopher.graham@ncl.ac.uk.

Mathematical skills catch-up: 2018 award-winning NUTELA learning and teaching conference poster

The 2019 Newcastle University Learning and Teaching Conference takes place at the start of April, with the theme “The changing landscape of Higher Education”. We are looking forward to hearing about what has been going on around the University over the past year, as well as disseminating info on some of the projects we’ve been involved with here in the MSP E-Learning Unit.

Last year, we were delighted to accept the NUTELA award for best Technology Enhanced Learning  submission at the conference, for our poster “Mathematical skills catch-up: Developing a University-wide solution through online formative tests”. The poster described a project, supported by the University Education Development Fund (then ULTSEC Strategic Fund), which was carried out in 2017 to develop online formative Numbas tests for departments outside of our own.

The project is described in detail in this blog post and outputted nearly 150 questions, packaged into over 20 tests, covering everything from the volume of ice cream cones to the probability of rolling three sixes. The poster describes not just the resources created, but also how the collaboration between six students and several staff members worked, which might be of interest for anyone thinking of applying for the latest round of funding to work with students on a project. It also discusses how to easily add Numbas content to Blackboard, which is described in the following video:

If you don’t know about the excellent activities put on by the NUTELA (Newcastle University Teaching Enhanced Learning Advocates) team, then do check out their section of this blog. As part of the award we received a small amount of money from them to support further activities. This was used to help fund a (mainly Yorkshire-wide) tour last summer, where I was involved in talks and workshops at Durham, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and Huddersfield, introducing Numbas and promoting the resources we have been creating, which we make available through our public editor and database. Since last summer’s conference, I am delighted to have been invited to also actually be “a NUTELA”, so I look forward to being on the voting/awarding side of the poster presentations this year!

I am certain that technology enhanced learning will be a running theme at this year’s learning and teaching conference. I’m pleased to know of at least one submission talking about Numbas applications outside of maths, as well as another poster in the pipeline from our unit (talk about conflict of interest 😆), this time on the slightly different topic of web-based / accessible lecture notes.

Don’t forget to register, and hope to see you there…


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Numbas is developed by the e-learning unit in the School of Mathematics, Statistics & Physics. If you have any questions, or are interested in using Numbas in your course, you can contact Chris at christopher.graham@ncl.ac.uk or the team at numbas@ncl.ac.uk 

Programme of talks released for international EAMS 2018 Conference 

The programme for the E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences (EAMS) conference has been released, with speakers from across the globe presenting the latest developments in the field of maths e-assessment and offering a unique opportunity to get hands-on with software, whether you are a user, a developer, or just a bit interested!

The conference takes place over 3 days here at Newcastle University, between 28th and 30th August, and is being hosted by the e-learning unit in the School of Mathematics, Statistics & Physics.

Mohamad Jebara, CEO of the award-winning Australian platform MathSpace, will open the conference, focussing on the innovative ways that MathSpace adapts to learners. Other highlights of day one include longer talks by senior figures from Vretta and DigitalEd, both with origins in Canada, and updates from EAMS 2016 keynote speakers, our own Christian Lawson-Perfect and Chris Sangwin, the lead developers of Numbas and STACK, respectively.

Opening proceedings on day two, Paul Milner, development manager at National Numeracy, will discuss the technology behind the charity’s online platform, which aims to improve the everyday maths of the UK’s adult population. The day will continue with a series of lightning talks covering topics including blended learning, online exams, and applications to subjects including statistics, engineering, physics and chemistry.

Day three will follow a new format, with the opportunity to take part in a ‘sprint’ to collaborate on new developments, to document best practice or exchange ideas. The format and content will be responsive to the topics and discussions arising from the proceedings in the first two days.

The conference takes place in the Boiler House, which will also host the conference dinner on the Wednesday night. Registration is free for Newcastle University staff and you are welcome to drop in and out of the conference sessions, however please do register on the EAMS website.

E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences (EAMS) 2018 Conference

The Numbas team is organising and hosting the international conference on E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences (EAMS) here at Newcastle on 28th – 30th August 2018.
The conference aims to bring together researchers and practitioners with an interest in e-assessment for mathematics and the sciences, with an emphasis on enabling attendees to have a go at creating material, and getting an opportunity to share expertise directly. It will consist of a mix of presentations of new techniques, and pedagogic research, as well as live demos and workshops where you can get hands-on with leading e-assessment software.
The conference will feature keynote talks from Mohamad Jebara, founder and CEO of MathSpace and Paul Milner, development manager at National Numeracy.
The conference is free to Newcastle delegates (£75 external delegates) and includes a conference dinner. You can find out more about EAMS, and the forms to register for the conference and propose a talk, at the conference website.
We hope that EAMS 2018 will be an inclusive conference environment that invites participation from people of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, religions, and sexual orientations. We’re actively seeking to increase the diversity of our attendees and speakers through our call for talk proposals and other conference communication. Please consider helping us in our goal in creating a more diverse conference through any of the following actions:
  • Recommend appropriate speakers to us by contacting any of the session organisers, or at eams@ncl.ac.uk
  • Forward our call for proposals to colleagues or potential speakers, with the message that we are looking for a diverse programme of speakers.
  • Suggest ways that the conference experience can be more welcoming and inclusive.
  • Share your ideas and best practices with us.

Numbas material to aid the transition to university

Many subjects across the University are challenged by students who struggle with an unexpectedly high level of assumed mathematical proficiency in their courses. As part of an ULTSEC strategic project  this summer, we have aimed to tackle this problem by building a significant bank of formative mathematical tests which can be used both as a diagnostic tool and for student-led learning.

The material is largely drawn from the GCSE syllabus in mathematics, and is engaging and accessible for students, even outside of numerate disciplines.

Each question is randomised, making it perfect for practice, and has full solutions.

 

The material covers topics including: data collection and presentation, probability, statistics, units of measurement, area and volume, algebraic manipulation, sequences and many more. Each topic makes up a mini test with several questions.

A full list of topics can be found on the ASK website, one of the places where we are making the material available to students.

How do I give students access to the material?

Directing students to the ASK website is one possibility. Another is adding the material directly to Blackboard. Numbas embeds seamlessly into Blackboard and can also store student attempts. Adding a test is straightforward, simply select the Numbas – LTI option from the assessment menu, give the Blackboard item a name and then launch the Numbas tool. We have handily provided a menu of the tests on the right hand side of the tool, under “Select a ready-made exam”. The following video demonstrates the process of adding a test:

The settings for all of the tests are optimised for use as practice material. The students can regenerate questions to get new versions, change their answers as many times as they like and get full solutions. If you would like to customise the tests in any way then it is possible by using the Numbas editor. We can also help you to adapt material for your needs; don’t hesitate to get in touch if you require any assistance.

Thank you to our team of students and staff who have helped to develop the material, including undergraduate students Hannah Aldous, Bradley Bush, Stanislav Duris, Elliott Fletcher, Aiden McCall Lauren Richards and Maths Aid tutor Vicky Hall.

Contact the Numbas Team

Mailing List

If you are using Numbas on your course then you can receive updates on the Numbas service by subscribing to our new mailing list ncl-numbas-users: visit https://lists.ncl.ac.uk/wws/subscribe/ncl-numbas-users.

E-mail

If you would like to find out more about using Numbas, or are having problems, then you can reach the Mathematics & Statistics e-learning unit at the role account numbas@ncl.ac.uk.

E-learning Team Members

Adding a Numbas Test to Blackboard

To add a Numbas test to Blackboard, first create a test in the Numbas Editor (see this post). Next, download your test: from the sidebar of the test, choose the Download -> SCORM package option.

In your Blackboard course, go to the Assessments drop-down menu and select Numbas – LTI.

lti1

You will be presented with some options, including a name and optional description. This is the information used to display the item in the Blackboard folder. Further down you will find some of the other standard Blackboard options such as display dates. There is no need to change any of the LTI configuration.

lti2

After clicking on Submit and Launch you will be presented with the New Numbas activity page.

newpackage

Using Choose file, browse to your Numbas test, then click Submit. You will be taken to the dashboard of the test, which will display student attempts, once the test is up and running.

lti4

Click the Test run button to preview your test. The dashboard will show attempts once students have accessed the material, and has options to do things like download scores. Clicking on the Blackboard link to the test will take instructors to this dashboard; students will be taken straight into the test itself, which you can preview using Blackboard’s standard Enter Student Preview button.


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Numbas is developed by the e-learning unit in the School of Mathematics & Statistics. If you have any questions or are interested in using Numbas in your course please Chris Graham at christopher.graham@ncl.ac.uk

Creating a Numbas Test

Tests are created in the Numbas Editor, which you can log in to with your University credentials.

Creating a New Test:

To create a test you do not necessarily need to write new questions. The Numbas Editor is also accessible to the wider community, and there are several thousand questions which have been licensed for re-use. The simplest way to create a test is to browse the Numbas Editor and  fill up a basket of existing questions. Refer to the Numbas documentation  for details, which will walk you through the process of finding and collating questions into a test.

An excellent place to start is the Content created by Newcastle University project on the editor, which contains material developed by the e-learning unit in the School of Mathematics & Statistics.

Creating New Questions:

You may well wish to add your own questions to your test. Here is a short video which describes how to create your first (very simple) question:

Of course Numbas is capable of creating very sophisticated questions and we recommend consulting the Numbas documentation for more information.

Once you have a test, you can find out how to add your Numbas test to Blackboard


 

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Numbas is developed by the e-learning unit in the School of Mathematics & Statistics. If you have any questions or are interested in using Numbas in your course please Chris Graham at christopher.graham@ncl.ac.uk