European Case Study

Student Performance Increased When Courses Moved Online



Faculty at the University of Manchester wanted a tool to support their new distance learning approach and make the delivery of a fully-online course a reality.


The school adopted Möbius to address the critical assessment and testing portion of a Master of Science online course.


Student performance and engagement increased after course worksheets were converted to assignments in Möbius. The school is continuing to refine their online learning approach to maximize Möbius’s capabilities and the most efficient learning experience for their students.

The Details

The University offers more courses than any other school in the UK. With so many courses to manage, it was especially important to choose an assessment tool they could use everywhere, including technical and non-technical courses. They use Möbius in science, engineering, humanities, and arts courses to test students on a wide range of course content, using thousands of questions that the faculty developed to help students better understand key materials and concepts. The institution provides a seamless learning environment for students and instructors by integrating Möbius into its course management system, Blackboard.

With their new distance learning approach to education, the school targets students from around the world and industry employees. According to Dr. James Brooks, a lecturer at the university, the biggest challenge is to maximize flexibility while maintaining a strong reputation. “The M.Sc. course, as it stands, has a very strong reputation. Many students who come through speak very highly of it,” he said. “Now, with the online version of the course, with students doing all the testing and coursework from their computers away from the campus, we need to ensure we maintain that standard.”

In developing the course, Brooks and his colleagues researched how other science and engineering institutions provide distance education. He and his team identified key areas they wanted to emphasize in creating their online course: Conceptual Understanding, Software and Practical Skills, Mathematical and Engineering Analysis, and Project Work.

They wanted students to be equipped to explain concepts and principles through exams and labs, complete project work, and carry out research. In all of these tasks, it was important that students could make use of symbols, diagrams, and sketches, just like they would in a classroom-based course. After some investigation, based on their experience with Möbius and its success at the school, they decided it was the best assessment tool to meet their objective and began further investigating its capabilities.

Initially, Brooks converted course worksheets into Möbius assignments and required that students obtain a high grade on each. Students were permitted to re-do assignments as often as needed to learn the concepts. While most students achieved a 100% grade, the approach presented some challenges, Brooks said. “There were things we needed to consider, such as how students could show their work for problems and receive marks for partially correct answers,” he said. “Also, there is the impersonation and cheating obstacle. How do we know it’s the student completing the exam?”

To address some of these challenges, the university is currently conducting trials on delivering course exams through Möbius using a digital proctoring approach. The exam is timed and delivered at a fixed hour, with students taking the exam in front of a live webcam that the exam overseer can monitor. This confirms the student’s identity and prevents the transfer of question and answer materials, with everyone taking the test simultaneously. The trials so far have been positive.

Faculty are also working on pairing assessment within Möbius with an oral exam. The oral exam would consist of a one-on-one video conference interview with a tutor or teaching assistant. This also gives faculty an opportunity to understand the student’s thought processes and review their methods for working through questions.

Brooks and his team are currently assessing the efficacy of their approach, including the amount of time, resources and manpower required to deliver the distance education course on a broader scale successfully. As the development team works out the final details, the university is set on delivering its first full distance learning option supported by Möbius. The platform has been a valuable tool for the university for several years. Student response has been largely positive. Brooks and his colleagues hope the success of this course will translate to further distance learning offerings at the school, as using Möbius to this end opens up possibilities that bring education more in line with modern learning systems. “The selling point is they can do everything from their computer,” he said. “Möbius allows us to refine our questions better, save a great deal of time on marking, and ultimately maximize our educational offerings.”