The need and vision for universities
Founding members of IDEMS have extensive experience working in and with African universities. We recognise the substantial challenges they face and pressures they are under are due to primarily to the conflict between the vital role they are playing in African development and the pressures of international academia. This leads to African academics sometimes being put in impossible situations, with unimaginable workloads or class sizes. Despite this some individual lecturers are going to great efforts, but as a recent report highlights often in isolation and without the supportive open collaborations which could lead to more sustainable and scalable impact.
In Mathematics education internationally there are now established open source tools, such as STACK (System for Teaching and Assessment using a Computer algebra Kernel), for which there is a body of evidence on their ability to support students to gain deep understanding of mathematical concepts based on the automated personalised feedback. There is also growing evidence that such tools can be successfully integrated into blended teaching to achieve comparable or improved student results in high resource environments. However it is noteworthy that there adoption in Europe often requires substantial investment from either the university or of time from the lecturer themselves. Our aim is to build open question banks and tools which would enable African lecturers and universities to implement some of these best practice digital resources without needing to invest.
The Maseno collaboration
Since the start of 2019 IDEMS has been supporting lecturers from Maseno University, Kenya, to replace the Continuous Assessment Tests (CAT) with weekly electronic quizzes using the Computer Aided Assessment system STACK. IDEMS has offered a mixture of support including, training, question authoring, trouble shooting, and a small amounts of financial support, The financial support specifically enabled the installation of STACK on the Maseno Moodle server and a scholarship to be given to a promising young postgraduate student to work with the key lecturers. In return all materials developed as part of this collaboration are open educational resources which can be shared with others.
This collaboration has also led to a joint interest in also developing resources for Kenyan secondary schools. This has the potential to be highly impactful for schools and hence an important research topic for the Kenyan lecturers and their postgraduate students.
The schools initiatives
The forced need for remote education in the UK due to COVID led to some of our collaborating UK teachers turning to us to create resources for their own students. This has kick started a collaborative effort which is gaining momentum to author an open question bank for school level mathematics. However, for schools the question bank itself will not be sufficient as Moodle is not the ideal platform for delivery, hence a parallel effort has started to develop the STACK API and integrate into other content delivery systems.