Student engagement is essential to optimal learning. When students feel connected and are given greater opportunity to interact with the subject matter, performance improves. Identifying the best teaching methods and tools is vital to the process. In today's classrooms, that means embracing technology and making use of online learning solutions that allow students to interact with the materials in a timely and efficient manner. This is especially true in STEM courses, where complex concepts require tools with the power and speed to deliver accurate results quickly. Stefan Szyniszewski, a professor at the University of Surrey in the UK, uses Möbius to keep his students engaged and interested.
Among Szyniszewski's responsibilities at the school is teaching the Basics of Mathematics to Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mathematics students when they arrive at the university. He was introduced to Möbius by a colleague when he started at Surrey and was instantly impressed by its features; including automatic marking that saves him time on grading individual assignments and exams. "Möbius provides multiple benefits," Szyniszewski said. "It keeps students engaged with lectures, and also provides them with an opportunity to practice, in their own time, the various concepts they're learning in class." It also provides students with an online interface to interact with materials, without learning a new syntax.
Szyniszewski uses the platform to deliver weekly assignments, tests, and exams to his students. He formulates real-life problems to keep students interested and motivates them to dig deeper into concepts. The education system is geared mostly towards working hard in a short period of time to score well on exams, he said. "My intent was to redistribute the students' effort throughout the semester by having them work on something every week," he said. "It's important to keep them involved, and Möbius allows me to do that."
Möbius's assessment capabilities provide students with instant feedback so they can identify areas of weakness and work to correct them. Students can practice questions and assignments as often as needed to gain the required proficiency. Instructors also receive feedback on student progress, allowing them to assess not only performance but also the efficacy of assignments, Szyniszewski said. "The weekly tutorials and assignments provide students with the necessary feedback, so they can immediately begin to work on improving any shortcomings," he said. "And it also lets me know if my material and questions are on point."
The platform includes features such as the ability to introduce active variables, generate algorithmic questions, and the ability to symbolically solve problems. These features make it an ideal tool for teaching large STEM classes. "When I have 150-200 students, there's not enough time to build personal relationships. If I am able to talk to each student for a couple of minutes each semester, it's a success," he said. "With Möbius there's definitely this element of personalization, where students feel like questions and assignments are tailored specifically to them. If there's an issue, we discuss it. There's still two-way engagement."
Another key feature of Möbius Assessment is its analytic capability, which allows instructors to review performance and level of effort, leading to greater success for students, Szyniszewski said. "The data is valuable in improving the overall educational experience," he said. "I can improve my teaching, and it also helps manage issues with students. If they have any issue with their grades, I can go online and review their progress with them to explain their results and identify opportunities for improvement."
Szyniszewski teaches one Engineering Mathematics course that is split between two departments. He teaches the first component using Möbius, and a chemical engineering professor teaches the second half of the semester without it. The component of the course without Möbius sees lower attendance and reduced student engagement. Students have expressed to Szyniszewski their appreciation for Möbius's ability to keep them engaged. "They like the instant feedback more than anything," Szyniszewski said. "Interest in lectures is also higher. Since they are absorbed in the materials on a regular basis, they're more motivated to show up to class. Having something tangible that keeps them motivated every week is a big positive."
Online learning, using a platform such as Möbius, is the future of education when it comes to engaging students, as it is more compatible with, and reflects, how students interact with the world outside the classroom, Szyniszewski said. "I think there is huge potential for machine learning and for pushing this boundary of online teaching beyond automated grading," he said. "Machine learning is making significant headway in other industries like finance and intelligence. It's beginning to make inroads into teaching because of tools like Möbius."