Universitat Oberta de Catalunya: The challenge of teaching and learning mathematics online

E-Learn Team
Adjust the
text size

Barcelona, Spain

Institutions and teachers find teaching mathematics via online courses a big challenge, due to the complexity of the task and the high drop-out rate. A number of different Moodle-compatible tools therefore exist that can solve these problems.

When mathematics are being taught, a number of common problems arise which cause students to drop out of classes, and they even make people not consider enrolling on one of these courses. These problems include the following:

1. For many years, students have been given manuals containing exercises that have to be completed, while a tutor discusses the answers as a group.

2. When the time comes for a final exam, students are incapable of answering correctly because their doubts and queries were not resolved in time during the course.

3. Many teachers find it impossible to read answers to exercises because students’ handwriting is hard to decipher, and this means they evaluate only the final answer and not the process. And, of course, doing exercises on paper and then passing them to a computer is a waste of time.

In view of the above, dozens of universities have opted to use Wiris Quizzes on Moodle, a complement whereby questionnaires with varying levels of difficulty can be set, while students have immediate feedback on the platform.

Questions are based on pre-established matrices or functions in the tool, such as random variables (polynomials, matrices) or 2D and 3D graphic representations. Meanwhile, the student has a visual formula editor that contains all the expressions used in basic mathematics, which means it is impossible to make mistakes when attempting to find the name of some operation. Similarly, the editor has an automatic syntax corrector, which shows when any data are missing in the exercise.

“This is a marvelous teaching experience in the field of innovation”, maintains Sancho.

One of this engineering’s biggest achievements is that students can be evaluated on the basis of mathematical criteria, and the possibility exists of not only answering multiple choice questions, since the tool is capable of understanding equivalent answers, such as 17/6 = 34/12.

“The Wiris Quizzes experience has been a very positive one, because we can use the calculator to evaluate numerical answers and we have gradually increased the difficulty of the exercises, and the student response to this has been good. Additionally, it has enabled us to improve the retention index by 13%, and students are enrolling almost without realizing”, maintains Teresa Sancho Vinuesa, a teacher of Informatics Engineering, Multimedia and Telecommunications Studies at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).

There is also a group at UOC called LAIKA (Learning Analytics for Innovation and Knowledge Application in Higher Education), in which four teachers, including Sancho, are researching the student enrolment and graduation environment for this type of course and the true position with respect to MOOCs.

In addition to the personalization and the support by advisers that are vital to the mathematics learning process, whatever the modality – and especially so in the case of e-learning – the experience, inventiveness and ability of teachers to propose other ways to solve algorithms are essential qualities that can be exploited to the maximum through Wiris Quizzes.


*Teresa Sancho Vinuesa, a teacher of Informatics Engineering, Multimedia and Telecommunications Studies at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

*Photo by: Pau Barrena

End of Comments