University of Guelph partners with Maplesoft to measure the effect of technology in the classroom - User Case Studies - Maplesoft

User Case Study: University of Guelph partners with Maplesoft to measure the effect of technology in the classroom

Most educators agree that technology can have a beneficial impact on mathematics students, and ample anecdotal evidence from individual teachers and classes supports that position. What is less clear is the extent of the impact of emerging technology on student success, the types of tools that provide the most benefit, and the best practices to achieve these benefits.

Next generation teaching techniques

The University of Guelph, in partnership with Maplesoft™, has launched a multi-year project to study these questions and to evolve the next generation of teaching techniques. In addition to Maple™, which has been used in many classrooms for years, the project employs newer technologies such as Maple T.A.™ (Maplesoft’s automated system for exercises and assignments), e-books, chat rooms, and blogging sites.

The two organizations launched this initiative to develop state-of-the-art technology tools aimed at giving students a more compelling and effective academic experience, while making instruction delivery more efficient and student-focused.

Jack Weiner, a renowned professor and celebrated teacher at the University of Guelph, is the chief investigator for this initiative. He has incorporated these technologies into his Calculus II course: he uses Maple extensively during lectures, encourages interaction on the course Web site, and sets weekly Maple T. A. quizzes. A key ingredient of his approach is to allow students to take the random quizzes as many times as they wish, without penalty. Initial results strongly suggest that the quizzes are instrumental to student success in the course.

While Maplesoft technology has been used in education for decades, the company has supplemented it recently with new mathematical software technologies such as intelligent assessment systems, e-books, and podcasts. As part of this new partnership, the University of Guelph will test and develop different education strategies based on this new technology framework, focusing on mathematics and science.

Maplesoft will provide the necessary software and service support. “This initiative is core to the future health of the post-secondary system and competitiveness,” said Dr. Tom Lee, Vice President of Market Development, Maplesoft. “We absolutely have to leverage the creativity of our educators and our immense technological advantage to meet certain global challenges.”

Maple T.A. quiz questions

Initial Successes

Weiner has already started to see positive changes in his students’ approach to learning. “I’ve seen technology make a profound difference for the student and for the instructor,” he said. “Incorporating educational technology into courses not only increases the efficiency in instruction, but also shows dramatic improvement in class grade average and success rates. Teachers also have more time to focus on the needs of individual students in the classroom. This helps to boost the students’ overall motivation, retention, and comprehension.”

Ongoing measurement

Rigorous evaluation is also underway to measure the success of the program. Extensive statistical analysis will focus on themes such as:

  • Performance of the class that used the technology versus the performance of classes from previous years
  • Correlation between a student’s exam results and performance on weekly Maple T.A. quizzes
  • Change in student attitudes towards technology during the course
  • Changes in class performance if the students’ use of the technology remains the same, but the instructor changes

Future plans for the project include expanding the program to include Calculus I and other mathematics, physics, and chemistry courses, both for on-campus and distance education programs.

“This new initiative will take essential experiences from the classroom and expand on them using all the new media that seem alien to so many teachers, but are completely integrated into the lives of today’s students,” Weiner said. “This is truly exciting stuff.”

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