INSA Lyon (the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon), one of the leading engineering schools in Europe, annually graduates 950 innovative and entrepreneurial engineers. INSA Lyon welcomes three-quarters of all its students right out of high school while the other one-quarter enter directly into their third year of study from a variety of other educational programs, resulting in a mix of educational backgrounds and skill-levels among new students.
In order to maintain the high standard of teaching for which INSA Lyon is known, the directors of the undergraduate program placed emphasis on students mastering basic fundamentals as well as calculus in their first year. Calculus was deemed important as it is central to mathematics, chemistry and physics. Placement tests were carried out at the beginning of the year, and a program was put in place to track the progress of first-year students.
The exams consisted of multiple-choice questions and the tests were handwritten. The assessment of such a large numbers of students proved to be a time-consuming and laborious task. Being an institution that strives for innovation in the field of information and communication technologies for education, INSA Lyon started looking for a testing tool that could ensure more efficient use of its resources.
Maple T.A. has proved to be a valuable resource for us. Time usually spent assessing and evaluating students is now used to enhance and improve our question databases.— Philippe Lonjou, Associate Professor, INSA Lyon
"When we looked for the right testing tool, we wanted to find a system supporting the assessment of mathematical expressions, a crucial function for us as an engineering school," says Philippe Lonjou, Associate Professor at INSA Lyon. "We found Maple T.A. to be the best option."
Maple T.A., from Maplesoft, is the perfect tool for any course that requires mathematics. It is a comprehensive web-based system for creating tests and assignments, and automatically assessing student responses and performance. It supports complex, free-form entry of mathematical equations and intelligent evaluation of responses, making it ideal for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
A number of features in Maple T.A. were of particular interest to the teaching staff at INSA Lyon. "Maple T.A. allows us not only to assess mathematical expressions, but also to accurately grade different variations of the same question. We can also see the progress made by the students in various courses and topics, and provide them with additional practice questions they can solve at their own pace," adds Lonjou.
In the first weeks following their admission to INSA Lyon, students are tested in basic mathematics, physics and chemistry using Maple T.A. Instructors can then quickly and easily identify students who need additional support in specific areas. Students requiring support are provided with a bank of practice exercises in Maple T.A. This allows at-risk students to progress and achieve the necessary level for success at INSA Lyon, while instructors are able to monitor student progress and development in the subject areas.
With 30% of the student population at INSA de Lyon comprised of foreign students, and 25% of students entering their third year directly from varied educational paths, there is a strong need to consolidate their skill levels and knowledge base and bring them to the level required to be successful at the university. Instructors realized the full potential of Maple T.A. to help bridge the important knowledge gap among this population and effectively equip them for their studies at INSA Lyon.
"Maple T.A. has proved to be a valuable resource for us," says Lonjou. "Time usually spent assessing and evaluating students is now used to enhance and improve our question databases."
Thousands of questions are freely available for use in Maple T.A. Instructors can also create their own question database as well as customize the questions depending on their classes.
Based on experiments in the first year's curriculum and in the undergraduate program, a team of teachers plan to develop a website on behalf of the Department of Mechanical Engineering Design to help students from various backgrounds further develop their knowledge in the areas of technical sciences, design and mechanical engineering calculation.