Towards 2020: Advancing Mathematics Support Abstract

Cronin, Anthony (2014) Towards 2020: Advancing Mathematics Support Abstract. In: The 15th Educational Technology Conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA). May 29th and 30th, UCD, Dublin, Ireland.


This year at the Maths Support Centre (MSC) in University College Dublin (UCD) we decided to support the adult learners from the Access to Science and Engineering programmes by offering them a suite of extra academic supports. These included giving them access to a new online personalised, adaptive learning maths support tool, developed here in Dublin [1]. The students took a (pre)-test (on paper) consisting of 15 elementary math questions dealing with the basics of arithmetic and statistics. The students then used the online system for 40 days and took the same (post)-test. Part of the online programme is a feature called Determine Knowledge which is a diagnostic tool used to position the student's current ability and state of knowledge on a given topic at a given point in time. The student's observations of the system as a beneficial support mechanism will be discussed here. In addition, the students were offered three 3-hour pre-course sessions in the MSC which dealt with the basic aspects of numeracy, including calculation (mental and with a calculator), measurement, ratio, proportion, fractions, basic statistics and solving linear equations and inequalities; topics which traditionally formed the first 3-4 weeks of the first semester of instruction. These sessions were conducted over three nights under the tutelage of 6 MSC tutors in a group-learning environment. Considering the extra demands placed on the instructor from adult learners making the transition from work (or unemployment) to third-level, the effectiveness of support staff time, the effective use of technology and the effective identification of at-risk or weak students, are critical issues for student participation and retention and highlight the resource challenges faced by today's educators. In this paper we focus on presenting the experience of using a technological tool which aims to meet these challenges. We give details of how that experience was gathered, documented and analysed.

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