# Experiences, Challenges and Opportunities of Online Mathematics Teaching with STACK at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Idrissa S. Amour, Daudi A. Zacharia, Abdi T. Abdalla, Fatuma Simba, Septimi Kitta

### Introduction

STACK was first implemented at the University of Dar es Salaam for a big class (of about 950 students) in the 2021/2022 academic year. It was considered as a cost-effective approach to mathematics teaching when compared to the classical tutorial sessions that required more staff, and had timetable constraints. In that academic year, it was used in two Engineering courses: Matrices and Basic Calculus for non-majors, and One-Variable Calculus and Differential Equations for non-majors.

At the beginning of the semester, students are given a quiz which is intended for them to familiarize with the STACK syntax. Students can only proceed to other quizzes when they pass the syntax quiz with a score of 100%. After that, each week students have to undertake one mastery quiz which they have to pass by at least 50% in order to attempt a test quiz. In the coursework contribution to the course, only the score for test quizzes are counted.

After its second year of implementation, a survey was done aiming to analyse the students' experience with this online practice. A total of 725 responses were received.

### Students Experiences

One common claim is that Mathematics assessment being done online destroys the students' mathematical thinking, and has a negative effect on their performance in the course. We asked the students to rate these claims and the results showed that the majority of them disagreed.

One aspect that we really wanted to improve with the use of STACK was to encourage students to work independently. This was lacking in the classical tutorial sessions, where just a few bright students were active. In the survey results, many students strongly agreed that STACK increased their ability to work independently, and also recommended that STACK can replace classical tutorials. The students also agreed that most of the solutions to the questions they did were accurate.

Our students have to pay for internet access, typically via mobile phone. We wanted to explore, whether or not the students could afford these internet costs. The results show that most students could afford the cost, and that the level of learning they received through STACK was of good value for money. Additionally, many of these students recommended STACK to be used in the next academic year.

### Comments from Students

*"Tutorials are included in timetables but most instructors don't attend or they get substituted with lectures. May be you are the only instructor who is serious about tutorials."* This comment affirms that STACK has been helpful for the students learning as compared to the classical tutorials.

*"The passmarks in tutorials should be removed as people fail to conduct quizzes just because they failed to achieve the required passmark in tutorials and at the end people become fatigue."* This student's recommendation was worked on in the 2023/2024 academic year, where mastery quizzes were split into smaller quizzes.

### Challenges

STACK syntax seems to be an issue for many students (about 54%), because most of them lack background in programming. We will try adding one or two syntax quizzes so that the students may become more comfortable before attempting the mastery and test quizzes.

There are also technical issues that we faced, like it being impossible for live quizzes because of the overload it causes for the Moodle server, so the time span for the quiz had to be extended to 1 week in order for the attempts to spread out.

There is a shortage of staff to support the students with the challenges they face using STACK, an effort is ongoing to put other members on board.

### Opportunities and Future Outlook

Students engagement with STACK means that a lot of data is available to be used in Mathematics education research. Many aspects can be studied in order to improve the learning process. So far our experience with the use of STACK in the University of Dar es salaam has been good, and we hope to leverage it to more courses in the coming years.

### Partners

The project has been funded by the University of Dar es Salaam through its competitive research grant. We appreciate the support we have received from IDEMS by allowing us to have unlimited access to its server.