Introduction

For the report click here Preliminary Report

The global spread of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, reached Norway at the end of February 2020. The first cases in Norway were detected on February 26; these were among people returning from business or holiday visits to Italy or Austria. As soon as the beginning of the second week in March 2020, it had become clear that the virus was spreading rapidly within the Norwegian population. On Thursday, March 12, the Norwegian Government took action and locked down the community restricting all non-essential activity with immediate effect. Universities were closed; lecturers and students were required to move to online teaching and learning from the following Monday, March 16.

Some mathematics lecturers in Norway had been experimenting with digital tools for teaching and learning mathematics for some time before the lockdown. The digital tools included video-recorded lectures or short expositions of mathematics, podcasts, streamed lectures, dynamic digital simulations and illustrations of mathematical representations, functions and models, digital assessment applications, and social media. However, for many, the requirement to suddenly move to online teaching was an unwelcome shock for which they were not well prepared.

MatRIC, Centre for Research, Innovation and Coordination of Mathematics Teaching is a Norwegian Centre for Excellence in Education. MatRIC aims to support all higher education mathematics lecturers and students in Norway by facilitating the exchange of ideas for good practices in all areas of mathematics teaching and learning. MatRIC was challenged to conduct a national survey of online mathematics teaching and learning in Norwegian higher education institutions (HEIs) to explore lecturers' and students' experiences and enable the sharing of solutions to the challenges encountered. This report is a preliminary presentation of findings from the survey. The instrument was prepared over the period April 24 – June 06, and the survey conducted amongst Norwegian higher education mathematics lecturers at the close of the spring semester 2020 (June 06 – July 04).

Summary

The small number of responses by both lecturers and students to the survey prevent any claims that the findings are representative. However, the experience and gender profiles of informants and their places of employment provide grounds to believe that a broad range of experiences is exposed by the survey.

Any shock resulting from the sudden imposition of teaching and learning online was probably more widespread among lecturers than students. Before the lockdown and online teaching began students' attendance at lectures and seminar-type activity was not high. It seems likely that many students were already familiar with remote learning using streamed lectures, etc. Further, a higher proportion of students responded positively to questions about the use of online teaching/learning materials.

After the lockdown few lecturers followed exactly the regular schedule set beforehand. Lecturers recorded their lectures, either as complete sessions or as a set of mini-lectures. Zoom was the main application for video meetings. It appears that a wide range and variety of digital applications and online resources are available, either freeware or commercial licence. The challenge is how one can be well-informed about the possibilities available. (Section 3 below, page 8, offers some ideas that emerged from the survey).

Live interaction between lecturers and students clearly suffered during the lockdown. Lecturers took a number of steps to ensure lines of communication remained open, primarily through learning management software (e.g. Canvas and Blackboard), and Zoom. Students want communication that is: live, anonymous, timely, functional and announced in advance. Simple actions by the lecturer to open channels of communication can be very effective.

The lack of being physically present at the university and missing social contact were high among the negative consequences experienced by students. Also, the requirement that students take more responsibility for their work was keenly felt by many.

Around 40% of students experienced a degree of anxiety through the lockdown period to the extent that they believe their learning was negatively affected.

Lecturers who are sensitive to the impact on students learning and emotional welfare, and who are aware of how the impact can be reduced, can make a positive difference.

For the full preliminary report click here Preliminary Report.