IÉSEG helps its students succeed in their studies even before they join the School
Last November, Matthieu BUISINE won the “Digital” Teaching Excellence Award for having developed a website with totally asynchronous online content, so that young graduates who have been admitted to IÉSEG can get up to speed in mathematics even before they enter the School in September.
Matthieu BUISINE, professor and head of the Quantitative Methods program at the School, discusses the genesis of this project, its realization and its impact on the students.
How did this project come about, and why did you offer the School’s future students some content even before they joined in September?
For several years now, I had noticed, as had all the professors who teach economics and quantitative methods in the first year, a very heterogeneous level of mathematics in the 12th grade. Some students were perfectly at ease with the concepts we use in class, but others (and they were more and more each year) did not master them sufficiently in depth, and therefore needed much more support.
The fundamental reason being that, in general, all the expected notions are covered in 12th grade, but to very different degrees depending on the school. Moreover, in high school, mathematics is approached in a very technical way (high school students are taught to calculate derivatives, exponentials, etc.) but they are rarely told what the practical use of these concepts is. At IÉSEG, we do not train pure mathematicians, but students who will need to use mathematics in their jobs.
My objective was therefore twofold: how to ensure that, from the beginning of the first year at IÉSEG, all students have the same skills and almost the same level in mathematics, so that they can follow the courses as soon as they enter the School, and how to ensure that they understand the practical use of mathematics, for the calculation of an interest rate in finance for example, or the link between derivatives and economic theories.
So I had the idea of creating videos that explain in a concrete way all of these notions and some of the practical uses, and to make them available on a website so that they could take advantage of the summer period, between the baccalaureate and the beginning of their academic year at IÉSEG, to get up to speed.
In concrete terms, how did you build this site and its contents?
This site was built to work on all types of devices (desktop, laptop, tablet…), operating systems and browsers, so that everyone can access it without any limitation. As soon as the student has validated his registration at IÉSEG, he receives the link to the site.
An introductory video first explains why mathematics is taught at IÉSEG and how it will be used in their future professional life. It then explains the scientific method and the structuring of the approach to solve problems. We cover the thinking process and the methods used to solve problems in the best way.
Then, all the videos have been divided into 7 chapters: basic tools, solving simple problems, reminder on functions, usual functions, logarithmic and exponential functions, limits and derivations. Each chapter is built on the same principle: after a quick introduction, I filmed myself in each video in front of the blackboard, as if I were a high school teacher, like ” Ivan Monka “ and I review each notion, from the beginning and without assuming any particular skill. I therefore make a synthetic course (the videos last between 5 and 30 minutes on average, very rarely more), in the most educational way possible, to go through all the notions to be known. Finally, below each video, a PDF document summarizes the important information to review it more easily later.
In the end, this site hosts 97 videos (in total, this represents more than 10 hours of lessons), made in 2018 in about 3 months. Obviously, these videos are not intended to replace the courses of a professor, whether it is the courses of 12th grade or the courses of first year at IÉSEG. Their objective is to allow future students to study during the summer vacations, to review the notions that they may have forgotten or that they may not have understood in their final year of high school, in order to arrive at the school in the best conditions.
Since the launch of the site, have you seen a positive impact on students ?
Since the launch of this project 4 years ago, students have watched more than 40,000 videos and their feedback is extremely positive. For their part, the professors have realized that this site helps students better understand the logic of “active learning”: they have integrated that they must acquire a certain number of notions before the course by themselves thanks to digital technology, and the physical class time is thus used for high value-added exchanges between the professor and the student (practical exercises, answers to questions).
The second advantage is that this site gives more meaning to the teaching of mathematics. Indeed, high school students have never learned what the mathematical concepts were going to be used for and how they would be applied in a concrete way in real life. Thanks to this site, the new students have a better understanding of the interest of a particular tool or method and this reassures them. However, there is a limit: many interesting use cases cannot yet be presented because they require an introduction to marketing or finance, which they will only have later on at IÉSEG.
Finally, the last benefit, and the main one in my opinion, is that this site saves them precious time when they arrive at the School… Having worked on these mathematical notions during the summer, this is as much less they have to do in September when they arrive at IÉSEG. However, the first semester of the first year, as in all higher education studies, is extremely intensive, because they have to learn the new work methods of higher education, they discover new subjects that they had never tackled before… This saving of time is thus very precious, because it reassures them, and allows them to concentrate on all these new things. They are therefore more efficient and better equipped to succeed in their first semester and therefore their first year at IÉSEG, beyond the subjects directly concerned by mathematics.
This “Digital” Teaching Excellence Award was therefore given for the optimal integration of digital technology in teaching, and not only for the creation of video content. It recognizes a teaching support that brings together, in a simple and effective way, all the concepts and knowledge that we want students to master as soon as they join IÉSEG, so that they are as comfortable as possible when they arrive in an unknown world and can build their academic success on solid foundations.