CASE STUDY: CORK INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
SPARK OF INTEREST
It all started for CIT when Dr. Julie Crowley (O Donovan at that time) went to the CETL-MSOR Conference in Coventry in September 2013. At the conference Julie was introduced to several systems for creating Mathematics e-assessments but decided that NUMBAS seemed the most user friendly from the test creator’s point of view.
PILOT WITH ONE COURSE
When Julie got back to Cork she decided to use NUMBAS tests for a short intensive bridging course on Calculus. She created exams using existing questions from the database of questions on the Numbas website. The assessments carried no stakes and the students were a small motivated group so it was an ideal testing ground for the new system. Using Numbas as a formative assessment made it possible to give the students a daily assessment with immediate feedback without the extra workload of correcting.
As expected Numbas worked very well as an assessment tool, however there was also an unexpected discovery, the students seemed to like the Numbas work and it appeared to increase student engagement.
"My initial motivation for using Numbas was to reduce my workload in terms of corrections. However, I discovered that Numbas was a highly effective learning tool. In tutorials students could help each other, but only with the method as they all had slightly different questions. I found students were much more determined to get the right answer, and that powerful green tick, than in pen and paper tutorials. I was also surprised that the group had no problem with the computer side of things."
Dr. Julie Crowley
In May 2014, encouraged by the success of the Calculus course and supported by the head of department, Áine Ní Shé, and Marese Birmingham in the teaching and learning unit, CIT hosted a workshop on Numbas. The workshop was given by Bill Foster and Christian Perfect of Newcastle University, the original developers of the system. This workshop was funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and was attended by delegates from nine national institutes including peers from UCC. Enthused by the workshop and the positive feedback from the first trial other lecturers in CIT bought into the idea of e-assessment.
In the academic year 2014/2015 NUMBAS tests were used across two large modules ‘Essential Maths and Stats for Business’ and ‘Statistics and Financial Maths for Business’. Altogether these modules had approximately 500 students and 10 lectures/tutors were involved. NUMBAS tests were used both in tutorials and as in class assessment.
In the academic year 2015/2016 NUMBAS was used on the courses described above and also three more courses. At this stage approximately 1000 students were using NUMBAS assessments and it is really gaining and has continued to grow since then.
Over the course of the three years, lessons were learned about what works best when using e-assessment and what difficulties might be encountered.
- It is very important to have at least one lecturer driving the changeover. This lecturer should be very involved in the teaching of the first trial courses.
- If other lecturers are a little nervous of trying out this new method of assessment do offer them a backup plan for the unlikely event that anything goes wrong. For example, printed versions of the first assessments, which NUMBAS can easily generate. This gives the lecturers a feeling that they have a safety net.
- The NUMBAS tests work best in a supervised tutorial type environment where the students can ask for help with any technical issues they may have.
- Students should have one tutorial at the beginning dedicated to learning how to use NUMBAS and becoming comfortable with it. The test ‘Getting Started with NUMBAS’ on the teame.ie website would be ideal for this purpose.
- It is also a good idea for both tutor and student to have a practice test in this introductory class (worth no marks).
- NUMBAS tests work very well as a support tool in a Maths learning support centre e.g. The Academic Learning Centre in CIT.