Manchester Metropolitan University Students Vote Math Best Overall Course Following Adoption of MATLAB
- Enrollment quadrupled
- Student satisfaction and employability increased
- Teacher-student communication improved
With more than 34,000 students, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is one of the UK’s largest campus-based undergraduate universities, offering hundreds of degree programs in business, law, education, health, humanities, art, science, engineering, and other areas. Recently, students voted mathematics Best Overall Course at MMU.
The criteria for this award include high student satisfaction, outstanding teaching, and an innovative and engaging curriculum. Improvements in these areas are the result of several department-wide initiatives, including the integration of MATLAB® throughout the math curriculum.
“Since we adopted MATLAB, our enrollment has increased year after year, and math has become the best overall course at MMU,” says Dr. Stephen Lynch, programme leader at MMU. “Upon graduation, our students’ experience in solving real-world problems with MATLAB gives them an edge over graduates from other schools.”
Following consecutive years of falling enrollment that saw the number of math students reduced by almost 40%, the MMU math department considered several options for attracting more students. “We needed to give students value for their money and enable them to develop knowledge and skills that would increase their employability,” says Dr. Lynch.
In the past, there was little coordination among department members about which software students would use. As a result, students had to learn how to do the same basic tasks in several environments. “We saw that the time required to learn the new software would be better spent learning new concepts and techniques,” says Dr. Lynch.
Students also had difficulties accessing the required software because the computer labs were heavily used outside scheduled class time.
MMU mathematics department members coordinated and implemented the integration of MATLAB throughout the mathematics curriculum. The department provided each student with MATLAB® and Simulink® Student Suite™, enabling students to complete assignments and projects on their own computers.
In their first year, students take Linear Algebra and Programming Skills, in which they use MATLAB to add and subtract matrices, calculate their determinants, and transform them to reduced row echelon form. Students solve problems analytically using Symbolic Math Toolbox™ and learn programming principles and constructs using the MATLAB language.
Professors introduce new concepts in lectures using MATLAB, and students complete assignments in MATLAB during lab sessions.
Two required courses in the second year rely heavily on MATLAB. In the pure math course Mathematical Methods, students study eigenvalues, eigenvectors, and quadratic forms, using MATLAB to plot surfaces and visualize minima, maxima, saddle points, and other stationary points.
For Numerical Methods and Modeling, students use MATLAB to solve differential equations using numerical methods, and work in groups to develop mathematical models that address real-world issues. In one project, they developed population growth models to study the effect of China’s one-child policy, and then presented a final report, including MATLAB plots and results.
The most popular class for MMU math students is Dynamical Simulation and Chaos. This third-year class covers fractals, neuronal systems, and chaotic systems. Later in the course, the students learn how to use Simulink® to simulate many of the systems they modeled in MATLAB. The examination for the course takes place in a computer laboratory with access to MATLAB.
Students use MATLAB not only in required classes but also in several optional courses, where they develop sound and image processing algorithms, apply the Black-Scholes equation to financial data, and create lighting, shading, and reflection models that improve the realism of 3D rendered images.
Enrollment quadrupled. “The integration of MATLAB into the math curriculum helped reverse years of declining enrollment,” says Dr. Norman Ellis, head of the Division of Mathematics and Computation. “Enrollment in math courses climbed from 45 students to 156, and classes based on MATLAB steadily became the most popular.”
Student satisfaction and employability increased. “When students voted for mathematics over hundreds of other MMU courses, it reflected their satisfaction with our teaching and the curriculum, and showed that the decision to use MATLAB had paid off,” says Dr. Lynch. “Further, the skills students develop with MATLAB will improve their job prospects and stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Teacher-student communication improved. “Working with students in the lab with MATLAB is a great way to get to know them—better than a lecture, small classes, and even one-on-one office meetings,” says Dr. Lynch. “MATLAB enables an interactive, visual approach that gets students to open up, offer feedback, and ultimately gain a better understanding.”
Manchester Metropolitan University is among the 1300 universities worldwide that provide campus-wide access to MATLAB and Simulink. With the Campus-Wide License, researchers, faculty, and students have access to a common configuration of products, at the latest release level, for use anywhere—in the classroom, at home, in the lab or in the field.
Manchester Metropolitan University provides campus-wide training through MATLAB Academic Online Training Suite. This portfolio of self-paced online courses covers a range of topics and is used to increase productivity, support multidisciplinary projects, and enhance student skills.