Supporting on-Campus Learning of Mathematics with a Learning Management System
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Easy-to-use web-based learning management systems are becoming more readily available to academics at universities around the world, to facilitate the delivery of online courses or to support on-campus courses with online materials and teaching and learning activities. The literature on online learning has been enriched over the last few years with a plethora of examples of creative and innovative uses of learning management systems in different disciplines at undergraduate level. However, examples from mathematics are scarce. This limited uptake in mathematics might be attributed partly to the very nature of mathematics teaching and learning, and partly to the difficulties with communicating mathematics online. This paper presents an example on how the effective use of a learning management system could make a difference in the learning of mathematics at undergraduate level. The subject involved a large cohort of students undertaking first year calculus in on-campus mode, and supported with a WebCT site. The key aspect of the innovation was the use of weekly online quizzes which students completed in their own time. The quizzes used various formats, but the pairing of a multiple-choice question with a question where students had to justify their choice was used predominantly. These quizzes were fully integrated to the rest of the subject activities; with the tracking and the detailed statistics facilities available at the click of a few links, the teaching staff could get a clear picture of common misconceptions and discuss these in lectures and tutorials, closing the feedback loop. There is evidence that the approach taken has improved student learning; as compared to previous years, students performed significantly better in the final examination.