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iPad roll-out to all Mathematics undergraduates nominated for Pearson HE Innovate Award

12/08/2021
Grant from Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and Times Higher Education Award nomination also herald innovation at MDX

MDX’s Mathematics group has made iPads available to all undergraduate students - receiving a nomination at the inaugural Pearson HE Innovate Awards in recognition.

Through the internal MDX Engaging with Maths Online initiative, BSc Mathematics students have been provided with iPads and Apple Pencils during their studies to ensure they have the same technology regardless of personal circumstances, and can write mathematics digitally and get instant feedback no matter where they engage with the lecture from.

Apple partner Academia, which supports students with their devices, visited Hendon campus and has featured MDX Mathematics programmes’ innovative iPad use as a Spotlight story.

Since before the pandemic, MDX staff and students have been experimenting with a variety of whiteboard Apps and collaboration software, including those with the facility to share audio and video recordings, plus other Apps offering visualisations. Whiteboards enable students to work collaboratively on problems, and lecturers to see students go through each of the stages of mathematical argument.

"I'm delighted to see all the hard work MDX's Mathematics group have done, and their bold vision, which is completely in the spirit of the strategy."
Vice-Chancellor Nic Beech

MDX academics have given presentations on the iPad roll-out at forums like the University of Central Lancashire, evidence-based teaching methods advocates Advance HE, and Teaching and Learning Mathematics Online.

One student said: “The iPad made it almost the same as being in the classroom next to my lecturer.”

Another said: “Apps designed for writing electronically help engage in learning Maths better. I wouldn't have been able to use these Apps on my desktop so the iPad does come in handy.”

A third student added: “I am so grateful I have the iPad. You cannot imagine how lucky you are for receiving one.”

MDX mathematicians Dr Nick Sharples and Dr Snezana Lawrence have won an Education Grant from the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications – the chartered professional body for UK mathematicians – for students to review the hundreds of hours of video lectures MDX Mathematics academics have created since 2018. They will assess which lectures work best, with the objective of disseminating excellent practice across the sector.

MDX Faculty of Science & Technology has long been committed to increasing engagement with maths and science subjects, through annual events such as New Scientist Live and WorldSkills UK LIVE where MDX students and staff present science games and challenges, and the SMASHFest/Space Plague series of immersive STEAM experiences.

In accordance with the introduction of new technology and teaching approaches, both undergraduate and postgraduate Mathematics programmes have been revalidated. All exams have been scrapped and replaced with continuous assessment - empowering students to succeed regardless of the challenges to learning they face such as extreme dyslexia.

This is another route to equality of access and puts the focus of Maths at MDX firmly on practical problem-solving, research skills and communication.

Nick Sharples takes the example of a budget being presented in the business boardroom, where it’s not enough to write out lists of figures – you need to convince colleagues of a course of action. The ideal, Nick says, is for MDX to produce mathematicians who can “engage with public debate and say why something is wrong and this is how you do the calculation”.

A new BSc Maths & Data Science programme has been devised, and a Level 3 Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment professional qualification added to MSc Financial Mathematics. Associate Professor of Mathematics Alison Megeney, who is Head of Learning, Teaching and Student Experience in the Faculty of Science & Technology and received a National Teaching Fellowship Award in 2018, has been nominated for a Times Higher Education Award for Most Innovative Teacher of the Year.

MDX Vice-Chancellor Nic Beech said: "The MDX ten year strategy is based around a set of design principles with EDI at their heart, to help us thrive in a constantly changing world. We are delivering our culture to be more radically creative, and less bureaucratic and hierarchical".

"I'm delighted to see all the hard work MDX's Mathematics group has done to refresh Mathematics teaching and assessment, and their bold vision, completely in the spirit of the strategy. I look forward to seeing the impact of these innovations on the experience of students and aspiring students of Mathematics, and to other departments and programmes across the university implementing similar radical rethinking".

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