Technology has the power to transform education, offering the promise of greater efficiency and convenience. The right tools can benefit students and institutions greatly, but just how much of a benefit? Asha Sadanand, a professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, was determined to find out when she introduced Möbius into her economics courses.
Sadanand uses Möbius because she feels it is superior to other options, and she is pushing to have it used by more faculty at the university. While economics is not a traditional STEM area, it involves much math, especially in mathematical economics, micro theory and game theory. The data gathered through Möbius allows Sadanand to assess student performance. “Using Möbius data, we can really see whether or not there’s been any improvement and where the deficiencies are,” Sadanand said. “It also offers a really exciting way for me to prepare algorithmic questions for my students.”
Sadanand chose Möbius because she feels its algorithmic capabilities set it apart from similar tools on the market. It allows instructors to create many variations of the same question, which allows studying to be individualized. As a result, there is no hesitation in allowing students to attempt a problem as many times as they need to for practice, she said. “If a student has difficulty with a specific section, they can repeat the assignments for that section as often as they need to in order to study for an exam and to make sure they are confident with the materials in that section,” she said. “Möbius is an extremely valuable learning tool.”
In order to test Möbius’s efficacy, Sadanand initially created a teaching module for her Mathematical Economics class. She developed a randomized sectional trial, with half of the 100 students using Möbius and the other half using traditional teaching and learning methods. All students attended the same lectures and received the same exams. The Möbius group performed better on the final exam, and that group also expressed greater confidence about the subject matter and greater overall satisfaction with the course. Students from the conventional control group expressed a desire to switch to Möbius.
Sadanand followed up this experiment by developing a module for her Theory of Finance class. The Möbius group again performed better and showed greater satisfaction, and the results were more statistically significant than in the previous trial. These trials led to Möbius being fully implemented in both courses, and based on her findings, Sadanand has published academic papers in the International Journal of Economics Education and the Journal for Business Education.
Sadanand is developing new modules for her second-year Economic Statistics and Intermediate Microeconomics class, and she plans to add future modules for other courses that will serve as a self-guided study option for graduate students. She also plans to develop a process to develop up-to-date, high-quality content for her courses. She is looking to hire graduate students to facilitate the development of assessment content. The content development process will also be a learning opportunity for these grad students as they work to create new content in different subject areas. The goal is a sustainable process where each generation helps train its successors.
In addition to graduate students, the school plans to hire senior undergraduate students to assist with creating and testing content. If Möbius is being introduced to a new course at the school, Sadanand will work with undergraduate students during the summer to gain the viewpoint of those who have recently taken the course. The idea is to develop more engaging questions and frame them in the most effective way possible. “The undergrads have the benefit of solidifying their skills, which allows them to be better tutors to junior students,” she said. “In general, we want to use the platform to its fullest capabilities here at the university. We’ve really seen the benefits, so I want to make sure it’s continually available to our faculty and students.
Sadanand is also working with her fellow faculty members, who may still be hesitant about using new technology. She works to encourage and train them, so they also realize the benefits of Möbius in their classrooms. She plans to work with her colleagues to develop content for their courses, using her Mathematical Economics module as a template. She hopes to eventually secure additional funding and support for content development and maintenance, with her graduate students assisting in these tasks. “With such large classroom sizes online, homework assignments are a necessity. Learning only happens by doing,” she said. “Students taking classes and students helping to develop content will benefit. It’s a win-win situation.”