The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS-Cameroon) invites renowned professionals and academics to share their ideas on a wide variety of interesting subjects through its Public Lecture Series. The series aims to enlighten, motivate and stimulate academic debate on diverse Mathematical and research domains in the minds of students. Each event is tailored in a way that encourages students to think across academic disciplines. Usually hosted at the AIMS-Cameroon lecture hall, our professors, external lecturers, and sometimes tutors and alumni, offer varied lectures from diverse and fascinating subjects. These public lectures and seminars play an important role in the lives of students, helping to broaden horizons and perspectives, and uphold the crucial spirit of intellectual inquiry and problem-solving in which AIMS believes.

Danny Parsons, Director and Mathematical Scientist at IDEMS International/AIMS-Cameroon lecturer, introduces the use of technology to support student’s learning through the provision of regular high-quality feedback

During his talk titled “Providing High Quality Student Feedback through Electronic Assessment (quizzes!)”, Danny educated the AIMS-Cameroon students and tutors on the use of electronic assessment methods such as Moodle, an open-source course management system where students can get access to notes and STACK, a system for automated assessment of Mathematics using a computer algebra Kernel, all of which allows for extensive feedback and better learning opportunities.

Generally establishing some quite challenging conditions faced by students and lecturers at the undergraduate level especially in large-sized universities, and particularly drawing from the case at the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science at Maseno University in Kenya, Danny said that the first year Mathematics and Statistics courses are often taken by students from a range of departments and there can be over 500 in a class of one lecturer and no teaching assistants. The lack of space and this very large class size limits students through the lack of high-quality feedback and limits lecturers through a limited time for marking which resultantly impedes the provision of quality feedback.

To solve these problems, Danny unlocked some of the assessment strategies, feedback opportunities and student benefits offered by the STACK system and the response from some students of Maseno University, Kenya where it was used earlier this year in teaching two first-year undergraduate courses.

“Even in small classes, the STACK system provides quizzes that can help students test themselves and get much more feedback than they could get in class. The feedback and randomization mean that they have so much more feedback hence more opportunities to learn”, Danny explained while pointing out the importance of such a system to an institution like AIMS.

The Moodle and STACK systems, already tested at AIMS-Cameroon during the just ended statistical problem-solving course, yielded lots of positive feedback from students. The system was equally envisaged to be vital during the AIMS students’ recruitment phase.

“Questions can be designed using the STACK system to be answered by the selected AIMS students before their arrival at AIMS. This will better equip them for the journey” Danny proposed. The seminar, which happened on Monday, October 28th, 2019 at the AIMS Lecture hall, ended with lots of reactions from participants who were interested in how to set up the system, how the system works and a way to extend such knowledge to other universities.