University of Oviedo (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2012 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 5613-5622
ISBN: 978-84-616-0763-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 19-21 November, 2012
Location: Madrid, Spain
Spanish higher education is currently adapting its courses to the EHEA (European Higher Education Area). One of the most important challenges in this adaptation is the change in teaching and evaluation methodology.

In this paper we compare two different approaches for the course "Automata and Discrete Mathematics" (ADM) in the framework of EHEA principles.

ADM course is mainly theoretical. The skills developed in this course are: (1) To model real problems as a graph, (2) To solve real problems by applying graph properties and algorithms, (3) To build Finite Automata for a given language, (4) To describe a Regular Language, (5) To identify Context free Languages, (6) To understand the basic concepts of combinatory.

ADM belongs to two different degrees from the University of Oviedo: "Degree of Computer Engineering Software" (CES), and "Degree in Computer Engineering in Information Technology" (CEIT). In the academic year 2011-2012 we used a different approach for each degree.

We imparted the course belonging to CES more focused on continuous assessment, and we used a more practical approach in the laboratory sessions by teaching the basics of lexical and syntactical analyzers. By contrast, we imparted the course belonging to CEIT giving more weight to the final theoretical exam, and we used the laboratory sessions to solve theory exercises.

We compare and evaluate the two approaches using several indicators such as the results of the students in the different exams, and the results of a satisfaction survey conducted at the end of the academic year.

The results of the students show that the differences between both approaches are big. In CES only 17% of the students who took the final theoretical exam passed it, whereas in CEIT 48% of the students did it. This is interesting because the exam was nearly the same in both degrees. Moreover, in CES 20% of all the registered students obtained a total mark in the course above 5, while 28% of CEIT students obtained it. It is also remarkable is that there is a strong correlation between the continuous assessment mark and the theoretical exam mark.

Additionally, the surveys show that the students prefer a continuous assessment approach, and they would like more sessions in which the teacher solves theoretical exercises.

The conclusion we get from this experience is the following: it could be very interesting to teach the practical applications that the concepts may have. However, in that case the theoretical base of the students seems to be worse at the end of the academic year. We should achieve the proper balance between both approaches.

Therefore, during the academic year 2012-2013 we plan to change the methodology used in both courses using the insights and conclusions derived from this work. We think that the course belonging to CES should be planned more carefully so that the final results of the students do not decrease too much. Additionally, we plan to add more practical applications in the course belonging to CEIT and reduce the weight that the final exam has in the total mark.
European Higher Education Area and its implementation, Assessment of student learning, Academic experiences, Comparison of two teaching approaches.