Blogging from The Tenth Southern Hemisphere Conference on the Teaching and Learning of Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics

Dr Maritz Snyders

Traditional tutorials. Definitions:

  • A tutorial is a method of transferring knowledge and may be used as a part of the learning process.
  • A period of instruction given, especially to one or two students

What is the purpose of a tutorial/practical session?

  • Allow the students to apply knowledge outside of the normal situation
  • Force them to do something practical

Traditional tutorials:

  • Small groups, face to face (25-30 students) weekly meetings
  • Students work through provided exercises
  • Guidance from lecturer or assistant when stuck


  • Marking and workload intensive
  • Scheduling due to variety of programmes doing same course
  • Large numbers
  • Available venues
  • Available staff

How about Online tutorials?


  • Replacing face-to-face contact with exercises posted online
  • Student completes exercises and submit assignments in their own time


  • Fewer staff
  • No scheduling problems
  • Easier for large groups


  • No immediate support
  • Guessing
  • No guarantee students actually write out detailed solutions
  • Only written feedback without explanations

Can we design an online system that has all the advantages but without the disadvantages?

  • 300+ students from many different backgrounds (someone from everywhere who was in a mathematics service course)
  • Start after the first semester test
  • Voluntary group
  • Marks contributing to course assessment
  • Set of questions posted on MOODLE site weekly
  • Online assessment (mainly multiple-choice) for students to answer online (Respondus)
  • System mark answers
  • Detailed solutions¬† must be uploaded on MOODLE:
    • Typed in Word document
    • Scanned PDF version
    • Photo taken on cellphone
  • Marks for online assessment only allocated if detailed workings is uploaded – not marked in detail, but spot checks
  • Feedback given to students in the form of video correct solutions plus explanations (Camtasia)

Simon Goldstone at the Blended learning centre.

Video examples of explanations.

Tech aspects:

  • Uses MOODLE (for about 9 years)
  • Use the quiz, assignment and URL tools
  • Grading:
    • out of 5
    • assignment graded out of 1 (1 for valid proof)
    • tut grade: quiz grade multiplied by assignment grade
  • Reporting:
    • Activity completion
    • marks overview
    • engagement analytics


  • Tut group did better than the rest of the class even though in the first test they had done worse
  • Positive responses in general

Changes for second phase:

  • didn’t want to include it for the whole class. Used another voluntary group
  • Sort out some technical issues
  • Do different lecturers have an impact
  • Many from the first group continued
  • In the second semester, the tut groups did better – could just be a biasing effect.


  • Now going to be compulsory for all students in 2016
  • Start earlier, before test 1
  • Increase the number of tutorials
  • Involve more lecturers
  • Correlations between performance and number of completed tutorials
  • Analysis of time spent on tutorials


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