University of Malaga (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 9420-9423
ISBN: 978-84-09-24232-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2020.2085
Conference name: 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 9-10 November, 2020
Location: Online Conference
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is forcing an unprecedented shift in how contents and learning activities are delivered in Higher Education. As lockdowns were put in place, traditional face-to-face teaching had to be replaced with online teaching activities. It is also expected that a significant level of online teaching activities, both synchronous and asynchronous, will be needed throughout the 2020/2021 Academic Year.

Live, in-classroom resolution of math related exercises in a physical board is a synchronous activity that is usually delivered in face-to-face teaching in STEM disciplines. This type of synchronous activities cannot be easily replaced in online teaching scenarios, especially in those involving stay-at-home lockdowns.

Some affordable solutions to this problem have been already implemented. For example, the use of a tablet-PC or a graphical tablet, combined with a whiteboard software, allows hand writing both text and equations directly on the screen. However, on-screen writing is not an easy task, and some teachers have difficulties adapting to those input devices. Another solution implies hand writing text and equations on a paper and recording it with a document cam or, if that is not available, with a cellular phone. Again, this may not be an optimal solution for some teachers, because it involves extra hardware and/or may need additional configuration to ensure a good readability of the canvas.

In this paper we propose an alternative method for the online synchronous resolution of math related exercises. It involves typing, rather than hand-writing, of the related text and equations. In order to be able to type the equations in real time, a specialized software, an “equation editor”, is needed. Mathematical equations have typographical characteristics that are different from normal text, and “equation editors” help to smoothly type them by providing a set of keyboard shortcuts. There already exist both proprietary and Open Source “equations editors” that provide these functionalities.

Some advantages of the proposed alternative are:
• It provides a welcomed option for teachers that are more comfortable typing material than handwriting them.
• It allows the teacher to easily produce electronic documents in rich text format, documenting the classroom activities.
• Being an on-screen activity, it can be effortlessly recorded to be later used as part of other asynchronous activities.

A possible difficulty to adopt this alternative could be related with the teacher’s typing skills and ability to learn the aforementioned keyboard shortcuts. But once learned, a teacher with acceptable typing skills is able to type both text and equations at a speed comparable to handwriting. The text and equations would smoothly appear on screen, allowing the students to follow comfortably the mathematical derivations.

We report our experience using this typing system in classroom, previous to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, and also how that previous experience has helped us to adapt our workflow effortlessly to the remote teaching scenario. Finally, we encourage teachers of STEM-related subjects to consider introducing this method in their “teaching toolbox”.
Live Lecture Screencast, Math Equation on-Screen Typing, Sanitary Crisis, Teaching Experience, Synchronous and Asynchronous Teaching, Digital Skills.