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HowCloud

Lab Contact: Gemma Tombs
Team: Kate Green
HowCloud Logo

Overview

This project, whilst supported by the Disruptive Media Learning Lab, was undertaken and managed by Trevor Hawkes and Mark Hodds of sigma in Coventry University.

HowCloud is a browser-based platform that offers students support with mathematics and statistics off-campus and out-of-hours. Quite often, students who have difficulties in mathematics also do not have the confidence to seek the help they need from sigma and HowCloud aims to remove this barrier. Students submit questions from their computer, tablet or mobile phone at any time. There is therefore no need for face-to-face contact with the student, removing the issue of a lack of confidence on the student’s part to ask for help directly. Furthermore, a student can send off a query whilst it is still fresh in their minds, instead of having to wait until 11am when the sigma Mathematics Support Centre opens. This is beneficial for the student as some mathematics requires knowing the finer details which can get lost or forgotten if left for too long. Once a question has been posted, a member of the Coventry’s maths & stats support team, also known as the sigma team, is then alerted via an email and posts an online reply. Full details of the platform can be found below in the Technology Application section.

The platform is the brainchild of Joseph Ros. He began its development while he was studying for an economics degree at the University of Warwick and, with some help from his contemporaries, he used it to help students in Coventry schools revising for their GCSE maths exams. We took this idea and applied it to our sigma Mathematics Support Centre in January 2015 as a pilot scheme to see whether it would make an impact on students’ learning and understanding of mathematics. After a modest start, students gradually began to use the site more and more and it was also used in the teaching of mathematics in the Health and Life Science faculty during their academic skills weeks. In October 2015 the scheme was fully launched, with the idea that first year students would be more inclined to use the system. This has indeed been the case with vast numbers of students posting questions on the site or just using the site in general to look at the questions and video answers.

The project will now continue until the end of the 2015-16 academic year where we aim to add a live version to connect with our Scarborough and London campuses. More tutors and students will be trained in using HowCloud so that it can continue to expand as a useful tool for mathematics support staff and students alike.

 

Goals

  • To provide students at Coventry University with an alternative to the usual form of mathematics support we offer at sigma (i.e. face-to-face or one-to-one teaching) which can often be daunting to many students who have difficulty with mathematics or a lack of mathematical confidence.
  • To create a brand new resource that can be used by staff and students alike to answer regular questions that appear again and again.
  • To provide a method of distance learning for students off campus or in our smaller campuses at Scarborough and London.

 

Technical Application

Questions can be typed into a text box in the browser window alongside, or separate from, an uploaded PDF, which might be a screen-grab or a scanned document.

howcloud-screenshot-1

The question window also has WYSIWYG formatting with a LaTeX option for displaying mathematical expressions.

howcloud-screenshot-2

The answer can be posted as a short video of the tutor writing a whiteboard narrative with voice over, or as another static PDF. To create a video, the tutor writes on a standard graphics tablet and wears a microphone headset. A bank of questions and answers is built up over time so that future students can use the resource without having to ask a new question. They can also post a further question after the video reply is given if they are still unsure, thus creating a thread on a topic to further understanding.

 

Milestones

 

  1. December 2014

    Project approved by DMLL, equipment and license purchased from HowCloud.

  2. January 2015

    Pilot site launched.

  3. March 2015

    Health and Life Sciences faculty keen to use site as part of academic skills for Mathematics. sigma staff work closely with HLS to provide videos and ongoing support.

  4. October 2015

    Launch of full site and publicity directed towards first year students.

  5. November 2015

    Review of HowCloud reveals first year students keen to use the site and have been using it to post many questions.

  6. December 2015

    Further contract with HowCloud agreed until the end of the 2015-2016 academic year for full site, including changes and support needed.

  7. January 2016

    DMLL involvement in project concluded. Live version with Scarborough and London campuses will be tested.

 

 

Project Timeline:

Start date

January 1st 2014

End date

December 31st 2015

Status

Completed.

 

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