African Maths Initiative

Sharing Initiatives in Maths Education

Electronic Courseware for Undergraduate Mathematics

Creating a sequence of ready-to-deploy electronic courses will substantially help improve the level of training in mathematics and statistics in the Kenyan university system. Such courses would provide a number of benefits in the Kenyan context:

  • Updated curricula, in accordance with present-day needs for problem solving,
  • Stable curricula, providing a base-line of student knowledge,
  • Allow a small number of teachers the ability to effectively teach hundreds of students,
  • Increase computer and Internet literacy amongst the Kenyan youth, and
  • Simple deployment across multiple universities.

If successful, these courses could be easily deployed in any English speaking country, and, with further effort, translated into other languages for deployment anywhere in the world. The problems Kenya is facing are mirrored to some extent all over sub-Saharan Africa.

Tools and Strategy

As much as possible existing tools and content repositories, which are free, should be used. The tools we expect to use include:

  • Moodle, an online course-management system which handles gradebook management, assignments, links to textbooks and external modules, and so on. Moodle will serve as a portal and coordinating entity for all of the following tools.
  • Video lectures, such as those available through MIT’s OpenCourseWare or the Khan Academy, giving a human element to presentation of course materials, directly linked to sections in the electronic textbook.
  • WebWork, which provides a system for giving scripted, randomized exercises for homework, quizzes, and tests.
  • Mathematica Player, a free version of Mathematica for which Mathematica documents can be ‘published.’ Maseno is currently investigating its use for schools.
  • Various free statistics packages such as Genstat Discovery, R and others.
  • CAST, a free electronic statistic textbook complete with interactive, randomized exercises and testing system.

By building course material from existing sources the speed of development and deployment can be substantially reduced. It also ensures that materials developed will be shared for adoption and adaptation anywhere in the world. In the Kenyan context working with lecturers at various institutions to ensure that the materials can be adopted and that adoption of the materials reduces their workload is the key to making this work.

In an ideal scenario, all students would have access to materials and lecturers at host institutions would not need to replicate the online material in lectures, freeing time for discussion sessions or examples classes. So hopefully class time will thus become a time for dynamic interaction and problem solving, instead of an exercise in note-taking. For some local lecturers this might provide a unique opportunity to engage with the material and the students since at the moment the most conscientious lecturers spend the little time they have preparing notes to write on the board.

Full eLearning Programs for Undergraduate Mathematics

The importance of full elearning degree programs in Kenya is paramount. The launch of eLearning degrees at Maseno showed a more flexible system of education grants access to a much wider demography of students. Interestingly computer access and eLearning can provide a very cost effective way to study as it allow the opportunity for the student to work and study part time, with added advantage there are no fixed times when you have to be somewhere. Two mathematics undergraduate degrees are currently being developed and offered in this way at Maseno University BSc Mathematical science and BSc Mathematics and Business studies.

A further advantage of the eLearning environment is it provides unprecedented opportunities for international support as everything is done online anyway. So international lecturers can contribute to either the development or giving of a program highly cost effectively.

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