School of Mathematics: Learning and Teaching Conference 2023
The annual University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference brings together staff and students to celebrate and share good practice and innovation in learning and teaching. The theme for the 2023 Conference was Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, with sub-themes such as research-informed teaching, innovation and creativity in teaching, and partnerships.
The School of Mathematics participated in three sessions, covering a range of exciting topics.
Academia and industry – the power of collaboration in the world of data science
Kit Daniel Searle, Lars Schewe, Rosie Wilkie, Skarleth Carrales, Kal Bukovski, Scott Jenkins
There is a common misconception that academia and industry exist as parallel entities. However, working alongside industry in a field such as data science is particularly fitting. Through our degree programmes, the School of Mathematics are training students in data science, many of whom will go on to work in industry; we want to ensure our graduates are well-equipped to deal with real-life problems using up to date techniques. This panel event provided a brief insight into the variety and progression of engagement between Sopra Steria and School of Mathematics students, and showed how effectively academia and industry can work together.
The School of Mathematics have collaborated with Sopra Steria since 2019 on a range of teaching activities across different study levels. During this conference session, the panel gave a comprehensive overview of how this engagement has developed over the past four years, with perspectives from the company, academic staff, and a student who participated in the activities themselves. Examples of activity include the supervision of six MSc Operational Research dissertations; two consultancy style projects for the MSc course, Methodology, Modelling and Consulting Skills; and the sponsorship of a UK-wide Operational Research Challenge for UG students.
Kal Bukovski (Director of Academia & Research, Sopra Steria) said:
It was a great pleasure to be part of the conference panel and share my thoughts as a Sopra Steria representative and a graduate from the University of Edinburgh School of Mathematics as well. Our long-standing relationship has been recognised as a win-win concept by everyone involved. I truly believe these students who are interested in a consulting career benefit from having access to relevant subject matter expertise, whilst still preserving the freedom to drive their work with their own ideas.
Sopra Steria were also delighted to offer a 12-week paid internship for the winner of the UK-wide Operational Research Challenge – there is a general deficit of such opportunities for fresh graduates and hence, any collaborative initiatives connecting academic and industry should always be encouraged.
Scott Jenkins (MSc Operational Research with Data Science student) said:
I was delighted to be part of the conference panel because I believe strongly in the benefits of collaboration between industry and academia. From a student perspective, the involvement of Sopra Steria in the Methodology, Modelling and Consulting Skills (MMCS) course was particularly positive as the problem that was posed (related to EV charging infrastructure roll-out in Dundee) was pertinent, motivating, and realistic. Students also had exposure to current data scientists, and how they might approach the problem. These reasons meant that MMCS was the most engaging course I worked on this year.
Following the panel’s discussions, there were some interesting questions from attendees around combining industry engagement with public engagement activities for children, as well as addressing the challenges of partnering with a company for teaching activities. Following the panel, members have been asked to contribute to the University’s Curriculum Transformation Project and share their perspectives around industry collaboration.
We look forward to continuing our partnership with Sopra Steria.
Adding interactivity in mathematics online workbooks, using JSXGraph in STACK
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Edinburgh and Loughborough University have collaborated to develop online workbooks for the mathematics education of STEM students. Our approach to the online workbooks was to use the STACK online assessment system and combine our experience gained with running the fully online course “Fundamentals of Algebra and Calculus” (FAC) with materials from the HELM (Helping Engineers Learn Mathematics) project workbooks. Each interactive workbook is a Moodle quiz with textbook-style written content, worked examples, simple tasks and practice questions. Almost all questions are randomised so each student will have a collection of questions which use different values.
These resources have been in use and evolved over the last two years, in which we have seen a significant amount of online teaching and students have engaged significantly better with the interactive online workbooks than in the other elements of the courses over this time. These materials have been released as an Open Educational Resource under Creative Commons licence.
When we started translating HELM into STACK we hadn’t included any interactive elements because it required extra effort. Since then, we have used JSXGraph to add interactivity in places. JSXGraph is a cross-browser library for displaying interactive geometry, function plotting, graphs, and data visualization in a web browser. In this talk, various uses of JSXGraph were demonstrated. In the following Q&A session we discussed how JSXGraph (2D and 3D) can be used in other disciplines such us Chemistry, Biology, Architecture and Arts, to enhance students’ learning experiences.
Mathematics outreach projects – sharing our passion for learning with local communities
Francesca Iezzi, Edward Solomon, Ruby David-Jekyll
Discussions about our civic mission and how to best develop connections and partnership with surrounding communities has become more and more prominent within UK Higher Education. At the same time, experience-based learning has proven to be extremely beneficial to our students and their learning journey and employability.
Within this landscape, the School of Mathematics offers final year students the opportunity to conduct credit-bearing projects focused on mathematical outreach and Widening Participation initiatives. After liaising with local schools and communities, students created and delivered mathematical outreach activities specifically designed for their chosen target audience. They then wrote a reflective report, where they critically evaluated their work, in light of literature based research and their own experiences.
This short talk at the conference featured final year mathematics students, Edward Solomon and Ruby David-Jekyll, and their project supervisor, Francesca Iezzi. They discussed their experience of engaging with the local communities within an academic context, and outlined the benefits and challenges they encountered.
Edward Solomon (BSc Mathematics student) said:
Outreach is a field I would never have experienced without the ability for it to have been credit-bearing and so I feel incredibly lucky for the project to be an option at the University of Edinburgh. I managed to gain a new perspective on the subject I was studying which was so valuable and enjoyable.