Emerging trends in educational technologyPresentation Transcript
Emerging Trends in Computer Technology October 2010
The Math Emporium
Ever had to take an introductory math class with 499 other students?
Ever find that you had no idea what was going on in the class?
Ever realize you didn’t quite get the material even though you did ALL the homework problems assigned?
Welcome to the new idea gaining ground at large universities-
The Math Emporium
What exactly is the Math Emporium?
In an old abandoned store in a mall near to the Virginia Tech campus, the math department has installed tons of computers.
They have created a space for students to go at their own convenience to do homework problems online, take practice quizzes and take course exams.
The space is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
How are they “taught?”
Students are to attend a lecture once a week.
The homework is then available at the emporium
Homework and graded exams are proctored and there is a a time window for completion.
Weekly quizzes are required.
The quizzes are offered on an honor code bases.
Students can take practice quizzes as many times as they want but must take the quiz one time for credit before the week is over.
The emporium itself is able to provide human resources on a one-to-one basis to students at the computer in a financially economical setting.
Course material and course testing is entirely under control of individual faculty members, and can be readily tailored to meet special demands.
The university stresses that this is NOT to be considered on-line instruction.
The key to this style of education is the “test engine” provided by the emporium. Each time a student calls up a quiz on the material under study, he will receive a different set of problems.
In fact, the test engine can create, practically speaking, an almost unlimited number of different quizzes on the same material.
In this fashion the practice quiz functions as a recitation, with the test engine providing instantaneous grading of the material, as well as comments and suggestions on problems the student does incorrectly
Initially designed as a resource for women’s groups in Africa, this type of emporium set up is being expanded to other courses besides math.
We are already seeing courses of this type offered in our middle school – Read 180.
This is designed for low achieving students who need the kind of repetition and reinforcement offered in this kind of instruction.
Connection to Middle School
The key to the effectiveness of most technical courses is repetition.
The conventional college course in the United States uses homework in order for the student to master material covered in the lecture.
The drawback in the conventional method is that the student typically tries each homework problem once , and at a much later time is advised as to which problems he completed correctly.
With the testing machinery in an emporium course, and the encouragement for the student to practice each quiz and test problem as often as he might wish before actually taking the quiz or test for credit, and with instantaneous feedback as to which problems are incorrect, we believe this pedagogical model is not just cost efficient, but actually far more effective than conventional lecture courses.
Active learning, as opposed to the traditional lecture model, improves outcomes.
Faculty and other coaches provide just-in-time assistance using techniques designed to allow the students to discover answers themselves.
Practice quizzes and the quiz-for-credit can be accessed from any Internet site anywhere in the world using virtually any browser by students enrolled in the course. However, there is a distinct advantage to taking quizzes at the emporium itself, since on-site resources there include tutoring labs and on-line videos, as well as an emporium support staff which responds to individual student requests for assistance, with a response time on most days of under one minute.
Comments from another evaluator
The Math Emporium supports a variety of activities:
Active, independent learning through locally developed, self-paced online math courses designed to let students learn on their own schedules, while providing immediate feedback and sufficient structure to ensure students understand expectations and meet required milestones.
One-on-one coaching by professors, graduate students, and advanced
undergraduates who are available 15 hours a day to assist students having
difficulty with material, in a comfortable, less-threatening environment than
a faculty office.
Proctored online exams, from which most of a student’s grade for target math
courses is derived.
Group projects and help sessions, facilitated by comfortable, easily moved
chairs and generous work space around each computer.
Online video lectures for students who prefer that format.
Independent study by anyone in the Virginia Tech community who wishes to
take advantage of the high-end computers or the quiet study environment.
What Is Unique or Noteworthy?
The Math Emporium has improved math education at Virginia Tech while reducing
costs by using an innovative learning paradigm with new expectations and motivations.
The system is supported by locally developed software and made possible
by the unique organization of space, complemented by high-end technology.
Important features include:
Taking advantage of the bottom-line orientation of many students (“What do
I need to know to pass the test?”)
Replacing broadcast education with one-to-one coaching and programs that
allow students to succeed at their own pace
Tracking performance and providing immediate feedback
Converting students from passive spectators to active participants in learning
Closer to Home
Plato: Being used at Alhambra High School for credit recovery
Students read and do activities.
They get 5 tries to take mastery test
Then they take a Unit Test
If they fail the unit test they either move on at teacher’s discretion or review it and retake and then move on.
Current Use: English – all levels but 12 and all levels of Math - all levels History – Modern World and US History
Martinez Junior High
Being used as a remediation tool for students who are below the proficient level.
Attempts to address gaps in students’ skills through the use of a computer program, literature and direct instruction.
The program directly addresses individual needs through differentiated instruction, adaptive and instructional software, high-interest literature, and direct instruction in reading, writing, and vocabulary skills.
The software component of the program aims to track and adapt to each student’s progress. In addition to the computer program, the READ 180 program includes workbooks designed to address reading comprehension skills, paperback books for independent reading, and audiobooks with corresponding CDs for modeled reading.
In this article we will illustrate the emporium model with an engineering mathematics course. The model is being utilized for courses in a number of departments, and the conclusions we draw seem equally valid for introductory and mid-level courses throughout science and engineering. This emporium model is suitable for the implementation of a combined lecture-based computer-assisted course. Such courses maintain the human connection which traditional education has always provided, and the lack of which can be a significant detriment in “on-line” university courses. It is important to emphasize this is not “on-line” instruction. The traditional faculty lecture role is retained, and the emporium itself, because of its size, is able to provide human resources on a one-to-one basis to students at the computer in a financially economical setting. Moreover, course material and course testing is entirely under control of individual faculty members, and can be readily tailored to meet special demands.
vector calculus, required of all mathematics, science and engineering undergraduates. Previously, this course was taught each semester in 25 sections of about 40 students each, meeting twice weekly and requiring, of course, 50 lectures per week. Moreover, the lecturers were responsible for assigning and grading recitations and exams for each section. Currently, all 1000 students are taught in 6 sections, each involving one weekly lecture and the emporium component to be described, that is to say, 6 lectures per week. The reason that so many students can be handled in one lecture is that the entire burden of recitations, quizzes and exams is carried by the computer emporium. This course and those like it have no weekly homework assignment or recitation. Instead, the course requires a weekly cycle of practice quizzes and quizzes-for-credit, all offered at the computer emporium.
Students report to the emporium at their own pleasure throughout the week following each lecture, and can practice the quiz problems on the weekly lecture topic as often as they wish. However, they must take the quiz for credit one time only before the weekly deadline. Since the computer emporium is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, students can access the quizzes at the emporium at virtually any time of their choosing.
The key to this style of education is the “test engine” provided by the emporium. Each time a student calls up a quiz on the material under study, he will receive a different set of problems. In fact, the test engine can create, practically speaking, an almost unlimited number of different quizzes on the same material. In this fashion the practice quiz functions as a recitation, with the test engine providing instantaneous grading of the material, as well as comments and suggestions on problems the student does incorrectly. The test engine also records and archives the scores attained on the quiz-for-credit for each student. Periodically, the student takes a proctored examination covering the previous three or four weeks of material, and at the end of the semester a cumulative final examination, with the examination and its grading also provided entirely by the test engine.
In just the course under discussion, for example, each of the 1000 students per semester takes on average about 50 practice quizzes, 10 quizzes-for-credit and 4 examinations. The typical quiz has 8 problems, with tests having from 15 to 30 problems. Since each problem must be individually generated for each student each time the problem is accessed, it is evident that the volume is quite massive, in fact, more than a half million quiz problems for just this one course. We believe our emporium test engine is the largest such engine in existence.
Practice quizzes and the quiz-for-credit can be accessed from any
A paramount consideration at all times is to ensure that the system is scalable to large transaction volumes.
III. Hardware requirements
These simple design requirements imply that the server consist of a standard web server (we use Apache) and a page delivery service capable of very high volumes of transactions. Apache is public domain, which means it is standards-compliant and free to use. Apache has proven to be extremely robust. In order to retain sufficient programming control to attain these transaction volumes, the most practical environment is java server-pages (JSP). JSP permits a maximum of computational speed and processing in a rich environment. With this architecture, a high-powered machine as server is not necessary. We utilize a pair of aging Sun 3000 servers with 4G of memory and RAID storage. One of the machines does the web serving, while the other accommodates the database. Except when we do builds, we rarely see usage exceed 10% of capacity on any machine.
We use Oracle as the database management
For the types of courses we have developed, the “practice quiz” plays the most fundamental role in the learning process. In the United States, in the traditional lecture format this role is played by the assigned homework problems.
The conversion of traditional classroom course offerings to models of the sort described in the preceding has substantially reduced costs, as well as improving staff working climate and morale, primarily by reducing the demands on senior lecturers in so many classrooms. Furthermore, when the performance in later courses of students who have completed courses under the emporium model are compared to those who learned the material under the traditional model, we find that the former significantly out-perform the latter. We believe this is due to increased time-on-task during the course. [9,10]
An emporium configuration requires
The hardware cost for construction of a computer emporium in Africa with 250 computers and two workstations, assuming $100 for battery-backed computers and two workstations with UPS’s at $5,000 each, as well as $2,000 for cabling, would be $37,000. If each student were allotted 6 hours computer time per week per course, and the emporium were accessible 18 hours daily for 6 weekdays, the emporium could handle 4,500 student courses per semester. At that rate, with a projected hardware lifetime of five years, the cost per student semester course would be less than 1 dollar. Even at a current cost of $150 for a simple laptop, the cost would be barely over one dollar per student semester course.
A large and secure venue is required for the computer
Although the computer emporium requires no outside networking, the emporium at Virginia Tech has Internet access available on every emporium machine. At the present time, the cost of wide-spread internet access for universities in many developing countries is prohibitive. World Bank estimates that the cost of internet access for sub-Saharan African universities is $13,000 per Mbps/month, compared to $120 in the U.S.  It is likely that eventually the rates in Africa will be greatly reduced by communication cables operating with regulated return on investment. In that event, Internet access on emporium machines will open up many other educational opportunities.