the e-Assessment Association

ASPs: Snakes or Ladders for Mathematics?

ASPs: Snakes or Ladders for Mathematics?

Below you will find one of the papers submitted from a variety of organisations using technology to enhance assessment. If you would like to submit a case study to the list, then please send details to: webmaster@e-assessment.com

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Michael McCabe, Roy Williams and Lynn Pevy

Abstract
We review our experience at the University of Portsmouth over the past academic year, following a shift from home-grown to mass-produced electronic resources from an educational publisher, Wiley Plus.  We present the results of a survey on the way mathematics students taking calculus units in their 1st and 2nd year viewed the shift towards  Plus, and the opinions of staff involved in tutoring and supporting them.  We discuss whether a personalised approach to teaching and learning can be maintained in a world of global education. Should the shift towards Wiley Plus become total, remain partial or simply be reversed?  To what extent should we continue to integrate other resources, particularly assessment questions (e.g. from MapleTA, WebCT/Blackboard or PRS) with Wiley Plus?

Several other publishers of mathematics textbooks are providing comprehensive packages of interactive resources online. Application Services Providers (ASPs) create, store and deliver from their own server. Their resources include an electronic version of the text or e-book, supplementary materials, worked solutions, study guides, applets, formative assessment with extensive feedback and even summative assessment.  Lecturers can customise these materials, most significantly by choosing questions for self-assessment tests and exams.  Inevitably there are constraints on the extent to which they can modify or add to these materials.

Have ASPs improved the teaching and learning in our large classes of around 150 students?  What about smaller classes? The stark choice between open source collaboration and commercial provision often polarises individual academics and even whole institutions.  We argue that the ideal is a financially sound, hybrid model, which allows for greater customisation, sustainability, extension and interoperability than is currently available from either commercial providers or open source initiatives.

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