Master’s Engineering Students at the University of Manchester Prefer Maple T.A. to Traditional Assessment Methods - Maplesoft

User Case Study:
Master’s Engineering Students at the University of Manchester Prefer Maple T.A. to Traditional Assessment Methods

The Master of Science program in Advanced Control and Systems Engineering at the University of Manchester features units that take place over a short time period, such as the State-Space and Multivariable Control unit. Dr. Joaquin Carrasco needed to find a way to grade quizzes and return them to students, with feedback, as quickly as possible so the material was still fresh in their minds.

Dr. Carrasco adopted Maple T.A. due to its ability to allow instructors to customize course content and develop thousands of unique questions for students to gain a greater understanding of key materials and concepts. Maple T.A. also provided students with instant feedback on their performance.

Maple T.A. provided Dr. Carrasco with the ability to generate unique practice questions, and allowed students to retake quizzes to refine their skills and review lecture topics. Dr. Carrasco surveyed his students and all of them recommended using Maple T.A. for future students in the course.

The University of Manchester, recently ranked the fifth best post-secondary institution in the UK, has a reputation for its world-leading research and teaching. Its Master’s Program draws on this renowned research, as well as on strong ties with the industry. When students graduate, they are fully equipped to enter into a post-graduate research program or to become sought-after employees in their chosen fields. In the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, the Advanced Control and Systems Engineering field of study of the Master of Science program prepares students to enter a variety of engineering sectors such as aerospace, robotics, automotive, or petrochemical.

Part of the MSc course in Advanced Control and Systems Engineering, the State-Space and Multivariable Control unit takes place over 3 weeks. In order to cover such extensive and technical material in a short period of time, Dr. Joaquin Carrasco traditionally assigned quizzes to students in order to reinforce concepts taught in lectures. Intended to be a formative assessment for the students, the quizzes would be collected a week later and marked by hand. By the time Carrasco grades each of his students’ quizzes and returns them, often the class has already moved on to the next unit, and the quizzes have long since passed from the students’ minds. “Having such a short time in which to teach the material, we needed a way to grade the students’ quizzes and return them much faster so students wouldn’t forget about it by the time they get their results,” said Carrasco. “We needed another process that gave students feedback earlier so they could apply the feedback within the time frame of the unit.”

Searching for an alternative to more effectively assess his students, Carrasco began to experiment with Maple T.A., Maplesoft’s powerful online testing and assessment system. Although Maple T.A. gives users access to thousands of ready-made questions, the content Carrasco was looking to incorporate in his course was very niche. Maple T.A. allows instructors to take control of their question content, making available a number of question types that are well-suited for technical subjects like State-Space and Multivariable Control. Using Maple T.A.’s step-by-step question designer and powerful algorithmic design tools, Carrasco created his own questions that would be most suitable to his students.

He introduced Maple T.A. into his course by moving some of his regular quizzes online. Carrasco noticed a number of differences simply by incorporating Maple T.A. Most notably, Maple T.A. graded each question right away, and had the ability to offer tips or let students know where they went wrong if their answer was incorrect. His students no longer had to wait to learn how they did on their quizzes; they were able to receive immediate feedback on their performance. “Receiving immediate feedback really helped students to learn the lecture material. Rather than wait for their quiz to be returned, students now know right away where their strengths are and what they need to continue to practice,” Carrasco said.

Carrasco’s students also found great value in Maple T.A.’s ability to randomly generate hundreds of questions similar to the ones initially created. After a quiz, he left the solutions posted in Maple T.A., which allowed students to return to the problems and retry a different version of the question. “Students really appreciated being able to essentially repeat a quiz using different parameters in order to continue to practice their skills and review lecture topics. They got more out of the course material using Maple T.A. than they did using pencil and paper,” Carrasco explained.

Since Maple T.A. was new to the Advanced Control and Systems Engineering course, Carrasco conducted a survey to get students’ feedback about using the testing and assessment tool. When asked if they would recommend using Maple T.A. for future students in the course, every student surveyed responded they would. Many of the comments mentioned the convenience Maple T.A. offers, as well as the ease with which students can review lecture content.

Following the successful implementation of Maple T.A., a project that was supported by donations from the University’s alumni and friends, Carrasco plans to begin using the tool in his Robotics class.

Contact Maplesoft to learn how Maple T.A. can be used in your classroom.