An e-Learning system for Quantitative
Methods courses

פרויקט במסגרת קול קורא 2 לקידום יישומי טכנולוגיות למידה

 

E. Korach, L. Sapir

IEM Department, Ben Gurion University

A. Sapir

Math. Department, Ben Gurion University  BGU

 and Software Systems Department, Sapir College

 

The authors present an e-Learning system they have developed in response to 2'nd Request for Proposals of the Israeli Committee of Planning and Budgeting (Vatat). The system is intended for the Quantitative Methods courses, given at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, by the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management for students of the School of Management.

Each year some Quantitative Methods courses are given, however they are quite similar. Thus, in the sequel, we will refer to them as a single course. The course, given for several years, contains basic topics from the following mathematical disciplines: Real Analysis, Linear Algebra and Differential Equations. Being a practical course, aimed at a non-mathematical audience, it focuses mostly on the applied and computational aspects of the above-mentioned topics, emphasizing a practical 'how-to' approach of solving representative problems in each topic. Despite the fact that the only pre-requisite for the course is high-school mathematics, the students are expected to acquire skills sufficient for dealing with vectors and matrices, systems of linear equations, investigation of functions, derivatives, recurrence sequences, series, and the like.

The authors present a computerized system, for exercising, developed by them. It is composed of a software tool adequate for various mathematical courses in which computational problems play an important role, and learning materials specific for the Quantitative Methods courses.

From the student's point of view, the system's main components are:

·         Individual homework generator.

·         Self-practice module.

·         Quick assessment quiz.

·         Current topic compass module.

·         Bank of exams.

·         Advanced practice module.

The main object, structured so as to enable the above features to function, is the Question Entity. It encapsulates, in addition to the question body itself, a variety of objects such as Hints, Hint Implementations, True/False Assertions, a Detailed Solution and various properties enabling the components features.

The system is generic also at the single question level, by allowing a question be appropriate for several uses. Further, branches of knowledge are adequate for several related courses.

The system makes extensive use of combinations of various IT technologies, spread among several facilities of BGU Computer Center and IEM servers.

Research concerning students' attrition when using e-Learning for mathematical courses shows a pessimistic view of the branch [2]. The importance of understanding a concept before moving to the next one, and the need for support of the mathematical language [1], [3] are some of the various reasons.

Various components of the system have been tested during the Fall Semester of 2006. The experimentation was carried out at three lecture groups (approximately 140 students). In light of the above research about e-Learning for Mathematics, the surveys conducted in the last few weeks of the semester resulted in about 71% of the participants feeling the system has contributed to their knowledge acquisition, 8% having negative attitude towards it, and 21% feeling it did not have any significant effect. Thus, the authors believe that the system will gain success in improving the learning process of the students in the coming years.

 

 

Bibliography

[1] Leventhall, L. (2004). Bridging the gap between face to face and online maths tutoring. 10'th International Congress of Mathematics Education, Copenhagen, Denmark, July 2004.

[2] Smith, G. G. & Ferguson, D. (2005). Student attrition in Mathematics e-Learning. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 21(3), 323-334.

[3] Smith, G. G. & Ferguson, D. (2004). Learning math problem-solving in online courses. Proc. Of E-learn 2004, Washington, DC.