Increasing class sizes and more options for finding answers to math questions online provided significant challenges to the faculty at the Shanghai Second Polytechnic University. More students meant more time and money spent on grading papers and better access to mathematics on the internet meant an increase in student cheating. The faculty and management were looking for ways to make their testing system more efficient when they were introduced to the testing and assessment tool, Maple T.A., from Maplesoft.
What started off as a pilot project in the Calculus course has now turned into a key project across the entire university. The university has now integrated Maple T.A. into its testing and assessment system for over 2200 students.
The enormous benefit that Maple T.A. can bring to the teachers and the students is obvious once you see how the tool works.— Wu Luo, Professor, Shanghai Second Polytechnic University
Maple T.A is an online, anytime, anywhere testing and assessment tool. Students can do their assignments, or take tests, based on custom questions prepared by the instructor. The results are automatically graded by Maple T.A., providing immediate feedback to students and teachers. The algorithmic nature of the questions enables students to practice with several questions and understand the concept thoroughly. The simple and easy to use interface of Maple T.A. enables students to do their work without spending time learning the tool. Additionally, the Maple T.A. Proctored Browser means students can’t access other websites or programs while using Maple T.A., significantly reducing their ability to cheat using online sources.
“The enormous benefit that Maple T.A. can bring to the teachers and the students is obvious once you see how the tool works,” says Professor Wu Luo, Shanghai Second Polytechnic University. “We saw instant results when we introduced Maple T.A. in our calculus courses. With the practice and testing options in Maple T.A., the students’ grades improved. It also brought back the students’ enthusiasm for learning by helping them understand concepts better. The fact that we are able to use technology to avoid copying and cheating in assignments and tests is a big bonus.”
Before the broader implementation of Maple T.A., Professor Wu Luo set up a pilot class in the calculus course for one year, to test the tool. During the year, 50% of the students in the pilot class completed assignments and took tests using Maple T.A. The other 50% did not use Maple T.A. To the university’s surprise they found that in the final examination, the group that used Maple T.A. scored 12% higher than the rest of the class on the same exam.
This staggering success was noticed by many in the Shanghai education system. Apart from other professors and department heads within the Shanghai Second Polytechnic University, the Dean of the Liberal Arts College of Shanghai Maritime University, and several professors from the Shanghai Business School became interested in Maple T.A. and expressed their desire to hear more about it.
Riding on the initial success of the pilot test, Professor Wu expanded the use of Maple T.A. to other classes. With the help of a few students, he also started to develop a mathematics question bank within Maple T.A., which, when completed, will serve as a resource for other teachers in their assignments and tests.
“When we complete the questions bank, all math teachers will benefit,” said Professor Wu. “Teachers will be able to pick questions as they need to, saving a lot of time. Maple T.A.’s automatic grading capabilities will also save the university a large budget on grading. Moreover, the tool is very easy to use, letting both teachers and students get started quickly.”
Having seen the success of the Mathematics department in improving the quality of teaching and learning, other departments at Shanghai Second Polytechnic University, including the Physics department, have also started implementing Maple T.A. in their courses.