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B. Bordel, R. Alcarria, D. Martín, T. Robles

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
With the introduction of information technologies in almost every aspect of the social and work life, students should acquire continuously changing abilities and competencies in order to become skilled professionals. Twenty years ago, theoretical contents were essential and made up the most important and biggest part of technical degrees. Traditional degrees, such as Telecommunication engineering, were organized around the idea that students should learn and deeply know some “engineering laws” (for example, Shannon’s laws) whose meaning and consequences students had to investigate and internalize. These same laws were employed to solve key problems in typical written exams and evaluation tests. However, nowadays, most of these laws are well-known standards, and deeply investigating each mathematical expression barely contribute to the new manners to access and store information and knowledge. Besides, modern software even makes possible for non-skilled professional to design and work in a very similar way as university professional did in the past. Contrary to this situation, more practical and global abilities are required from skilled workers. Students are aware of this new scenario, and they tend to demand more specific competencies and feel more motivated for abilities that are directly requested by companies.

In this new context, nevertheless, theoretical laws and mathematical bases are still very important. Essential high-level competencies require this type of knowledge, and degrees must still consider them, although they only represent a small part of the total amount of contents nowadays. Thus, professors face the difficult problem of motivating students to work with theoretical competencies, in a context where they do not feel intrinsic motivation to do it.

Therefore, during the first term of the year 2017/18 in the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, a pilot experience has been conducted based on the introduction of optional evaluation activities focused on promoting the student learning. Specifically, students were requested to submit a collection of solved theoretical multi-options questions, in a format and style similar to which it will be employed in the exams. Different pilot groups were defined and organized, where the manner to value the optional evaluation activities was different.

During this experience, some students receive the optional activities as a mandatory evaluation activity. In other groups, optional activities could help students to obtain some extra qualification (the amount varied depending on the group). Finally, in the last pilot group, optional activities were considered but no mark was associated to them. In all these groups students were told about the important benefits of doing these activities.

Results showed a double effect. First, students demand an extrinsic motivation to develop theoretical competencies. On the other hand, there exists a saturation point above which students do not work on the proposed competencies, but they try to obtain the best possible mark (in this situation undesired effects such as plagiarism appear).