The first Numbas user meeting was a big success: over 50 Numbas users from around the world gathered to share their experiences and work together on plans for the future.
The recordings of the talks are now available to view on the Numbas user meeting Spring 2022 programme page. My intention was to record every session, but I had some technical problems which meant that the training sessions and a couple of the talks weren’t recorded properly. There’s still plenty of good stuff to watch, though!
Here’s an update on Numbas development, covering December 2021 to March 2022. Sorry about the long gap between posts – holidays, strikes, exams and finally catching covid didn’t leave me much time for blogging!
In February, I wrote about our new extension for assessing programming. In order to implement this, I added a framework for running asynchronous tasks before marking a question part, and for defining new kinds of input method. These should both open up all sorts of possibilities beyond the programming extension.
In the editor, I’ve been working on adding a “queues” feature to projects. The main motivation is to support the Open Resource Library, but I’ve already thought of a few other use cases for it.
We’re going to run a mini-conference for Numbas users this April, offering an opportunity to find out what’s new in Numbas and to share what you’re doing with other Numbas users around the world.
The Numbas User Meeting 2022 will bring together the Numbas community of academics and practitioners to exchange ideas and best practice through a week-long schedule of talks and workshops. The meeting will offer the chance to collaborate on shared goals and to contribute to a compendium of case studies on the use of Numbas.
The meeting will run from 25th to 29th April. Throughout the week, live talks will take place at 09:00-10:00 and 15:00-16:00 BST (UTC +1) each day in gather.town, a web-based virtual environment. Recordings of all talks will be available later, along with pre-recorded material and case studies hosted on the Numbas website.
The call for talk proposals is currently open. If you have a use case, research or experience using Numbas that you would like to share, then please consider submitting a talk. The format of talks is flexible; talks can be live or pre-recorded. We are also encouraging speakers to submit the content of the talk in the format of a case study to be published on the Numbas website.
The main aims of the meeting are to:
Share ideas and best practice.
Offer training for beginners and advanced users.
Bring together case studies for a brochure / Numbas website.
Collaborate on documentation – no technical experience necessary.
Develop interest in the new Numbas Open Resource Library.
There’s more information about the meeting, and links to register to attend or propose a talk, on a dedicated page for the meeting. The deadline for talk proposals is March 31st.
Lecturer at Forth Valley College, John Dickson, won an FVC Staff Award last year for his use of Numbas in mathematics courses.
John says this about the award:
I started using Numbas as a means of formative assessment around five years ago which worked really well as a tool for allowing students to develop their skills ahead of a summative assessment. The experience of learning how to write Numbas questions has proved invaluable since the Covid -19 pandemic began and remote learning became necessary.
The maths department needed a method of ensuring that any summative assessments conducted in a remote setting were reliable, secure, maintained a standard of integrity and were able to be set at the correct level for the variety of courses we deliver. Using Numbas to deliver these assessments allowed us to do this. By developing assessments that were randomised for every student meant we could be confident that it was their own work and creating these bespoke assessments ensured they were set at the correct level. Developing these assessments in a short time scale did have some challenges along the way but we have now developed a fairly standardised system of assessing in this manner.
Having developed assessments using Numbas, I believe that there is a strong case for continued use of e-assessments of this type in assessing mathematics in the post pandemic world. There are many ways in which assessments of this nature are superior to entirely paper based assessment and I hope that we will be using Numbas to allow our students to develop their mathematical skills and knowledge in future years.
We’re keen to hear about other awards Numbas has contributed to. If your use of Numbas was cited in any form of formal recognition, please tell us all about it!
Just before Christmas I gave a talk over Zoom to a meeting of the First Year in Maths network, titled “Some adventurous things you can do with Numbas”.
There were a few experienced Numbas users in attendance, so I wanted to show off some things you can do with Numbas that I don’t normally have the chance to talk about in my standard “Introduction to Numbas” talk.
We’ve just released the next major version of the Numbas LTI provider: v3.0.
The main impetus for moving to a new major version was to get up to date with the third-party libraries that the LTI provider relies on; there were a few big changes in the way they worked, so working with the latest versions involved rewriting a lot of code.
However, I’ve also taken the opportunity to add a few new features, and to work through a lot of bug reports and interface improvements in the issue tracker.
We’ve been running v3.0 here at Newcastle for a couple of months, and it’s proved significantly more reliable than v2.
Here’s an update on Numbas development, covering July to November 2021.
I’ve been working on a big update to the Numbas LTI provider, which is pretty much ready but I’d like to test on a few different systems before recommending everyone upgrades.
Other notable additions recently include autocompletion in the editor when writing JME expressions, and variables are automatically added to the Variables tab after you write a reference to them anywhere in the question. These changes should make writing questions quite a bit easier, especially for new authors!
Last week was the second International JSXGraph Conference. Numbas has had an extension to integrate JSXGraph for over 10 years, since the very start, but I haven’t done much with it, so I submitted a talk proposal to pressure myself into doing something.
That tactic worked – as the conference approached I spent a few days working on the extension, adding the ability to use JSXGraph diagrams in marking, just like you can with the GeoGebra extension.
We’re running another of our semi-regular training sessions, aimed at beginners. It’ll run over Zoom and last about two hours. No previous knowledge of Numbas will be assumed. The session will be recorded.