Promoting STACK Across Disciplines at Loughborough University

Loughborough University

Ian Jones


At Loughborough University, STACK has been implemented across many disciplines. Courses are created by module leaders, who prepare paper-based problems, and academics and students who implement these problems in STACK. To promote STACK to lecturers across the University, a showcase module page was developed that makes it easy to navigate and browse good STACK examples across disciplines.


STACK was installed at Loughborough University in 2014. Since then, a programme of development and dissemination led by Loughborough’s Mathematics Education Centre has resulted in widespread use across the University. The University has encouraged multidisciplinary take up beyond the mathematics department, and now 57 modules across six degree programmes include STACK content. STACK is used for assessment in topics including mathematics, business, statistics, chemical engineering, physics and foundation programmes.


Initially, questions were developed in conjunction with module leaders. Typically a module leader provided the developers with paper-based problem sheets. The developers, who included academics as well as PhD and undergraduate mathematics students working on projects, adapted the problems into STACK questions. The example below illustrates how the developers paid special attention to making use of STACK’s unique feedback feature to provide personalised feedback to students.

A list of partial derivatives questions. The list of partial derivatives questions, turned into STACK questions.
Figure: A paper-based question and its STACK equivalent.

Alongside development, the STACK content was promoted and disseminated to lecturers across the University via internal workshops. This included workshops to train module leaders in developing their own content. Additionally, a module page was developed, viewable to all teaching staff, that acts as a showcase for STACK content.

The showcase module page, which has links to several other pages, such as 'Welcome to STACK', 'Important and Exporting', and 'Syntax quiz'.
Figure: The University developed a showcase module page.

The showcase module page is designed to be easy to use and navigate, even for beginners. This is because newcomers often find navigating, selecting and exporting questions off-putting. To overcome this, all questions within a topic have been wrapped into a downloadable .zip file, and only a few navigable example questions have been provided. The download screen for business-based STACK questions is shown below. Business questions have been a particular success, and a new project to develop further STACK content for the School of Business and Economics begins in Autumn 2019.

The download screen for a collection of business STACK questions, including a link to a Complex numbers quiz and a download link for the individual questions.
Figure: The download screen for a collection of business STACK questions.

What's Next?

STACK development continues at Loughborough. The University continues to be particularly interested in promoting STACK in areas where it is not commonly used. This development includes developing STACK content for degree programmes beyond mathematics, such as statistics for psychologists, as well as areas within mathematics that are traditionally difficult to assess automatically. A particularly exciting area being explored is assessing proof comprehension, and an example prototype question is shown below.

A proof in 12 steps for why the square root of 2 is irrational. Students are asked a) for an example of a number that is coprime to 60, b) to justify which earlier step is contradicted in step 10 c) giving an example of another value the proof could apply to.
Figure: A STACK question assessing some skills in proof comprehension.