Engineering Mathematics and Virtual Learning Environments: A Case Study of Student Perceptions
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The study involved BTec National (level 3) engineering students studying at a large Further Education College in the South West region. The disciplines of Electrical/Electronic, Mechanical, Operations and Maintenance, Manufacturing, Telecommunications and Fabrication where all included in the study. Several students were sent by their employers on day release programmes and apprenticeships, and these formed the majority of the part time students. There were also other employed students who attended full time for terms 1 and 3 as part of a block release programme. The remaining students were full time, and mainly 16-18 years old.
The study focused upon the core mathematics module everyone studied, and mathematical resources which were available through a virtual learning environment. The resources used layering, enabling earlier work to be built on and applied. Two separate cohorts were studied after substantial changes had been made to the qualification standards.
The main findings were that the mathematics resources were very useful support, had a significant positive impact on student success, and enhanced the student experience. They helped part time students, especially, to improve their confidence and their achievements. The unlimited availability of these resources were a major consideration in their usefulness. The use of layering within the mathematics unit enabled better recall and comprehension.
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