The use of digital learning technology to minimize problems caused by heavy budget cuts on teachers

Karsten Schmidt, Ulrik Engelund Pedersen

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In this paper we report about a large scale teaching experiment conducted at a large introductory mathematics course which took place in the academic years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. The experiment was initially forced by external needs: Due to general budget cuts we (the course managers and authors of this paper) received a though assignment: To reduce working hours for external teaching assistants with one third - without compromising the teaching quality. Of course that seemed impossible, but we had to try. We were not offered any time for pilot projects etc., we had to find a solution that could be implemented soon and for all 1100 students at the same time. Thus, the budget reduction gave rise to a course redesign problem: How could we over short time reorganize a large course in order to reduce the number of contact hours between teaching staff and students whilst maintaining the quality of learning and teaching. Since we did not want to cut in the scheduled teaching time, the only way we would have a chance to resolve the redesign problem was through extended use of technology. But what
kind of technology should be chosen and how should it be used? We knew, as stated in a thorough OECD-report, that technology does not necessarily improve learning: “The connections among students, computers and learning are neither simple nor hard-wired; and the real contributions ICT can make to teaching and learning have yet to be fully realized and exploited" [1]. Accordingly, it was clear to us that we should pay close attention to the way in which we would implement a new digital tool, and that it should be carefully based on an analysis of local needs and conditions. We found that this could be done in three steps: 1) First we had to get an overall status of the mathematical competencies that we want the students to obtain during the course and find out where teachers are needed the most, 2)
next we had to analyze how the use of digital tools could actually support the current learning goals, and 3) finally, in the implementation, we should not underestimate practical constraints such as numbers of students, available classrooms, ICT- infrastructure and network connections. In the paper we will describe how we took these steps, completed a new informed course setup/redesign and how we have evaluated our efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 46th SEFI Confrerence 2018
PublisherEuropean Society for Engineering Education (SEFI)
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-2-87352-016-8
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventEuropean Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference 2018 - Technical University of Denmark, Kgs Lyngby, Denmark
Duration: 17 Sept 201821 Sept 2018
Conference number: 46


ConferenceEuropean Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference 2018
LocationTechnical University of Denmark
CityKgs Lyngby
Internet address


  • Introductory Mathematics
  • Mathematical Competencies
  • Digital Learning Technology
  • Digital Assessment
  • Maple
  • MapleTA


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