Complementing mathematics support with online MathsCasts

Birgit Loch, Olivia Gill, Tony Croft


Widening of participation and budget cuts are strong drivers to motivate the investigation of educational technologies to benefit students seeking help in mathematics support centres. In Australia, the uncapping of university places by the Government from 2012 (with one explicit aim to increase the number of students from non-traditional backgrounds) may lead to an influx of students that are mathematically less prepared. At the same time European universities face financial challenges as a result of the Global Financial Crisis. This paper reports on an international research collaboration between mathematics support centres in Australia, Ireland and the UK. At all three universities, existing pedagogical expertise and knowledge of the topics and concepts students struggle with informed the production of MathsCasts---short screen movement videos of mathematical explanations recorded by a tutor using tablet technology. MathsCasts provide students with the flexibility to receive mathematical explanations whenever they like and from wherever they are. We overview the collaboration undertaken to get this project to its first roll-out phase. We then state and address specific questions relating to student use of MathsCasts and perceived benefits to students, and discuss lessons learnt from the feedback which will inform whether and how future MathsCasts will be made. We present findings of an early evaluation of the impact of MathsCasts on student learning across the three universities and outline plans for the future. The paper will benefit those who teach and support students who struggle with mathematics at university and those who wish to exploit emerging technologies to further their own teaching.

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ANZIAM Journal, ISSN 1446-8735, copyright Australian Mathematical Society.