RMIT University in Australia transforms teaching and assessment using Maple - User Case Studies - Maplesoft

User Case Study: RMIT University in Australia transforms teaching and assessment using Maple

With the rapid advancement of technology and the introduction of powerful software tools, engineers are increasingly using software products for computation and design. To prepare their engineering students for the job market, the faculty at RMIT University in Melbourne faced the challenge of introducing several software products into the engineering curriculum. It was Maple from Maplesoft, the world-leading tool for solving complex mathematical problems and creating rich technical documents that met their curriculum needs and proved to be most effective in their teaching.

Since mathematics underpins much of the technology used today, it fell upon the faculty in the department of Mathematics to take on the challenge, particularly noticeable in the advanced level mathematics courses for engineering students. When evaluating various options for software tools, the teaching staff realized that while several software packages had easy-to-use interfaces and good visualization techniques, none of them were designed for teaching.

Maple: an ideal choice

The staff, however, realized that Maple was different.  They discovered that it was ideal for teaching, visualization, developing conceptual understanding, and computing model problems. Its unique blend of computational power and ease-of-use makes it an essential tool for mathematics and engineering students.  Symbolic computation, a popular Maple feature, allows users to obtain exact results, eliminates the need to simplify problems by hand, and provides insight into the problem structure from which users can develop conceptual understanding.

Maple is ideal because it provides a "universe of discourse": it contains a powerful computation system that performs symbolic calculations, numerical computation, graphical computation and visualization, word processing, and typesetting of mathematics.

The faculty developed (and refined over the past decade) a curriculum heavy on Maple, an initiative the staff termed “Maple immersion.” Topics such as the Finite Element Method (FEM)—a mathematical technique widely used in many branches of engineering—were made Maple-intense. In the first part of the FEM course, Maple is used for all presentations and student work. Mathematical ideas are introduced for model problems and the students are taught how to solve them using Maple. All of the Maple teaching and assessment files are online, accessible to students anytime, anywhere. Assignments and major projects are submitted as Maple files, marked and annotated by the lecturer, and uploaded as Maple files to the university’s web course management system.

The assignments are individualized; the exact solution is found
using Maple and the error behaviour is investigated

Students learned to use Maple very quickly. Its user-friendly interface helped them understand the software almost instantly as they started using it in classrooms and assignments. Now Maple is used for all presentations, teaching, student work, and assessment in several advanced mathematics courses.

 “We are very happy with the results that Maple has brought us,” said Prof. Bill Blyth, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Computational Mathematics at RMIT University. “Maple provides comprehensive functions and features and is very easy to use for teachers and students.”

The use of Maple has expanded to other courses such as Vector Calculus, Classical Differential Geometry, and Numerical Solution of Integral Equations. Prof. Blyth has also developed an innovative weekly Maple computer lab session for students taking an otherwise traditional first year course of Calculus. This program brought about a dramatic improvement in student comprehension and perception of the use of software packages.

Maple also enabled an automated and individualized grading system, resulting in a sharp increase in student requests for assistance and a more realistic reflection of student skills in their marks. The system also reduced the marking burden on the staff, leaving them more time to concentrate on teaching.

About RMIT University
RMIT University is one of Australia’s original and leading educational institutions, producing some of the country’s most employable graduates. As an innovative, global university of technology with its heart in the city of Melbourne, RMIT has an international reputation for excellence in work-relevant education, high quality research, and engagement with the needs of industry and the community.