ACTIMATH: A REMEDIAL COURSE IN MATHEMATICS ADAPTED TO THE NEEDS OF THE STUDENT AND THEIR CHOSEN FIELD OF STUDY

T. Neijens1, A. Vermeyen1, K. D'haeseleer1, G. Clarebout2, C. Biront3, L. Van Loon4, G. De Samblanx4, T. Avermaete5, E. Van Hoof6, B. D'haenens1, T. Stevens1, D. Coppens1, L. Gielen5

1KAHO Sint-Lieven (BELGIUM)
2K.U.Leuven (BELGIUM)
3HUB (BELGIUM)
4Lessius Mechelen (BELGIUM)
5KHLeuven (BELGIUM)
6KHLim (BELGIUM)
Background
Many courses in colleges and universities have a need for mathematical concepts in one form or another. Whether or not mathematics is in a supporting role, all studies expect some basic foundations. In order to ensure that starting level, many colleges and universities organize remedial math courses.
For Belgium, most of these courses are organized in a classical way: theory lectures followed by exercise session. This leaves little to no room for differentiation. Some students don’t need the extra lessons, while others have trouble keeping up with the speed of the lectures. Summer courses tend to differ from college to college in content and level, even if the field of study is the same. There is little to no cooperation between lecturers.
While lecturers have the impression that these summer courses actually help the students to solidify their mathematical knowledge, no research has been done to check this assumption.

Objectives
The main goal is to develop a remedial course for all participating colleges and universities (Association K.U.Leuven). This remedial course needs to be adaptive. The contents and level have to be catered to the needs of an individual student, taking account in the chosen field of study and their personal knowledge in mathematics.
A second objective is to stimulate cooperation and sharing of knowledge, material and experiences between the lecturers of different colleges/universities, in order to heighten the effectiveness of teaching in all institutions.
We want to improve the foundation of mathematics and to close the gap between secondary education and higher education. As a result, the failure rate in mathematically oriented courses should be reduced in the starting semester/year.

Approach
ActiMath should be able to be used throughout the whole Association K.U.Leuven; one of the requirements of the project is the use of a VLE (Toledo, based on BlackBoard).
From an entrance quiz and questionnaire about their school past we can determine the entrance level and the subjects that have to be taken. This can be done through the adaptive learning paths provided by BlackBoard, or through a database system on an external site.
To determine the best mix and learning scenarios (self-study, contact education, cooperative learning), we base ourselves on the previous remedial courses given by lecturers in the association K.U.Leuven and their experiences. ActiMath should be usable in all scenarios, depending on the wishes of the student or lecturer. Construction of the content on the site reflects this by giving the student the choice what he wants to do first (learning theory, doing exercises, trying examples, watching a web lecture). An exercise system will be implemented that gives differentiated feedback.
As a final step, we try to find a positive correlation between the actual implementation of ActiMath and the students’ final exam results.

Further research
Determining a good entrance and final test is no easy task and warrants further research of each field of study and their demands on entrance level. After a first test run in September 2011, experiences will be collected through questionnaires and test results in order to improve ActiMath. Comparing these results to the actual exam results hopefully yields a positive and relevant correlation.