Category Archives: Resources

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 

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.