Use of Learning Pool to deliver large undergraduate modules to mixed ability learners

Case study authors: Jeff Neat, Dr Adam Wootton, Dr James Austin and Dr Nick McIntyre

Foundation Year Centre

CDF Framework: Inclusive Learning, Technology Enhanced Learning

Project Summary

Foundations of Numerical and Quantitative Methods for Scientists/Health are two modules that, between them, deliver foundational Mathematics to over 200 students in the Science and Health Foundation Years. With the onset of the Covid-19 lockdown, a technological solution was needed in order to build up both skills and confidence for students whose last experience of Mathematics may have been a C grade at GCSE level several years prior to entry.

This was achieved by using the Learning Pool platform as a one-stop repository for course content, exercises and external resources. To our knowledge, this is the first time that Learning Pool has been used on this scale for an undergraduate module at Keele. Every topic in the module is broken down into subtopics, for which students can access videos and examples problems. These resources are then supported by formative problem sheets, which the students self-assess and review in tutorial sessions. Additional in-situ support classes were arranged for those students who felt that they required extra help.

The online MS Teams tutorial sessions were also enhanced by technology, employing home-made visualisers or inexpensive graphics tablets alongside MS Whiteboard to annotate work and explore topics, providing an experience similar to an in-situ class. Students were able to upload their work for annotation via Padlet.

An additional benefit of using Learning Pool is that it allowed for ‘at a glance’ analysis of student engagement with the module, allowing for interventions where necessary. As such, Learning Pool was an ideal tool for inclusive learning across a wide range of abilities.

This principally sought to address the need to find a way to deliver materials to a very diverse group of students who often need lots of confidence-building reinforcement in a time of pandemic. However, the success of this work means that it will continue to be used even in a post-Covid world.

Prior to the use of Learning Pool, Science and Health Foundation Year Mathematics was delivered using the traditional lecture and problem class paradigm, which seemed to be the only way to deliver such a vast amount of content to such a large cohort. However, the new approach vastly improves on this, giving students as many opportunities as they need in order to review all of the pre-recorded lecture content and test their knowledge. This is invaluable for the significant number of students who arrive at Keele with a pronounced lack of confidence in their numerical skills.

In a year where students were cut off from the usual university experience by the pandemic, Learning Pool provided a professional-looking platform that neatly collated all of the course materials for students. Indeed, the organisation of Learning Pool was such that it gave the impression that the modules were actually designed to be online, rather than put online as an emergency change. At the same time, the loss of in-situ teaching meant that staff lost one of the best tools for monitoring student learning and engagement. However, this was replaced by the ability to monitor engagement through Learning Pool. 

Over 200 students have now taken Foundations of Numerical and Quantitative Methods for Scientists/Health and engaged with the Learning Pool platform. This work is being prepared for presentation at the Foundation Year Network conference.

Learning Pool and the Adapt platform that it is based on are not specific to Mathematical disciplines. As such, they could be applied for the same purpose in any academic context. Indeed, Learning Pool is used to deliver the various professional development courses on topics such as Information Security.