Lecturers and tutors in mathematics are just keystrokes away. Teaching and MatRIC's drop-in for mathematics support is undertaken on digital platforms.
"The online drop-in offer is quick, the tutors are skilled, and we receive good assistance via video link", says Charlotte Krispinussen Jacobsen, first-year student of business and administration.
When the campuses at the University of Agder (UiA) closed the doors on 12 March due to the coronavirus situation, Krispinussen Jacobsen and many students lost access to the MatRIC drop-in centre.
The centre is a mathematics resource and support centre where students at UiA can get help solving mathematics tasks up to 20 hours a week. In Kristiansand, the centre is located in building 48, room 103; in Grimstad in group room A2 045. But now these will be closed until UiA re-opens.
"I prefer going there in person, but this is a very good alternative now that campus is closed", says Krispinussen Jacobsen.
The drop-in offer is for students at the teacher education unit and those who take courses like mathematics, business and administration, and engineering.
Opening hours are from 9am to 3pm on weekdays, but students can submit questions around the clock.
The tutors will either respond to the message or get in touch via video, using Teams or Skype as soon as they are available.
Tor Kristian Grandalen is one of the drop-in tutors. He is a student at UiA and in his fourth year of the master's programme in mathematics. In addition to his studies, he works as a mathematics teaching assistant at Dahlske upper secondary school in Grimstad.
With his pupils in secondary school, he has already developed digital teaching solutions. There, he uses OneNote from the Office package and a drawing board connected to the projector in the classroom.
His experience with this benefits him now, and he uses the same platform with the students at UiA. In OneNote, which is a digital binder and notebook, students can submit questions and see other people's questions and the answers supplied.
Grandalen says that many students take advantage of the offer and that he gets several questions every day.
"The online arrangement is very good. I connect my drawing board and share the screen with the students. Then I can show calculations and explain visually on my virtual blackboard", he says.
The students are happy with the arrangement and feel that it is user-friendly.
"We do the best we can during these times. This works well for me, and I am available to the students almost the whole week. But we look forward to UiA re-opening the campus", he says.
When the teaching format at UiA changed to digital, MatRIC and the Department of Mathematical Sciences immediately took steps to continue delivering good teaching to students. For subjects that especially need blackboard teaching, that requires restructuring and flexibility - both from teachers and students.
MatRIC went ahead and purchased six iPads with Apple Pencils. These can be used by teachers, like Grandalen, to connect to their computer and use as a virtual blackboard.
Several teachers use the tool. It has worked well according to Torstein Kastberg Nilssen. He is associate professor at the Department of Mathematical Sciences and teaches statistics.
"The iPad with the Pencil is a good drawing tool and a good way to communicate mathematics to the students", says Kastberg Nilssen.
Kastberg Nilssen did not use the drawing tool until he had to teach remotely from home. He has found a teaching method that works well for him and his students.
"About 40 students take the course I teach. In order for everyone to access the teaching, I film and record it, including what I draw and explain on the computer screen. The film is uploaded in Canvas so students can watch the lesson whenever they want, or watch it again", says Kastberg Nilssen.
Many people watch his videos several times. He also organises live sessions for smaller groups. Then students can easily ask questions along the way.