Developing online workbooks for engineering and STEM mathematical education

The mathematical education of engineers and scientists is often considered as a distinct area of mathematics education. The School of Mathematics, at the University of Edinburgh, has two pairs of courses specifically designed for first year engineering and chemistry students. Around 500 students complete them during each semester.

As a response to COVID-19 pandemic, during the summer of 2020, the University of Edinburgh and Loughborough University collaborated to develop interactive online workbooks for the mathematics education of STEM students. Our approach was to use the STACK online assessment system and combine our experience gained with running the fully online course “Fundamentals of Algebra and Calculus” (FAC) with materials from the HELM (Helping Engineers Learn Mathematics) project workbooks.

Each interactive workbook is a Moodle quiz with textbook-style written content, worked examples, simple tasks and practice questions. Almost all questions are randomised so each student will have a collection of questions which use different values. After submitting a workbook, students can return to it, either to review the written material or to reattempt the questions. The workbooks are used as an introduction to each week’s material and students can consult the textbook for more advanced topics and further exercises. Students receive immediate feedback on their attempt which promotes students’ engagement and learning through assessment. From the teacher perspective the workbooks can be used as a means of engagement monitoring, especially the current academic year that teaching activities have moved online.

Developing the workbooks was a significant effort which required time and people. Student evaluations rated the HELM workbooks as a valuable and successful resource.

The plan is to make a general release of the workbooks at summer 2021, once materials have been tested for one academic cycle. Partners have agreed to release the resulting online versions of each workbook under Creative Commons, “CC BY”.