Review of SOWISO, a learning, practice and testing environment for higher education mathematics

By on 05/05/2018

An Amsterdam-based company called SOWISO created a learning, practice and testing environment for higher education mathematics. The idea is to support personalized learning through fine-grained feedback that students receive when working on exercises. The platform analyses students’ input and identifies mistakes at a granular level. This allows the system to automatically give them personalized hints, specific to their learning path. Giuseppe Fiorentino, Associate Professor of Computer Science at the Italian Naval Academy, tested the site for us and wrote down some impressions.

I looked at the platform and, in general, it is interesting. The innovative parts are the organization of contents and the tracking of attempts and results.

Here are some of the things I liked the most:

  • the contents are full of many cross references and images;
  • many examples are available “on demand”, allowing to go into further depth, while not weighing down the discussion;
  • a very granular management of topics, presented as “learning objects”, with theory and check questions always very close to each other;
  • the tracking of results works well, though it is not clear to me whether it follows the students’ needs, and if so how (the path and the exercises seems to be fixed).

Here are some of the things I did not like as much:

  • a certain “lack of precision” in the language used (for example, task 5 on page “” asks “Give the coordinates of the highest point of the circle that is shown in the flat plane”, and this is not clear to me);
  • low interactivity. I saw few parts you can interact with (for instance, all the figures could be animated, using GeoGebra);
  • there are only 2 communication channels: text and (non-interactive) images. Maybe some videos could be useful;
  • some parts are only in Dutch.

Here are some of the things I disliked:

  • an editor not up to the task: it does not recognize mathematical structures (try to solve their fractional equations…);
  • a strong rigidity in the solution paths of all exercises (there is a single path and all “hints” force in that direction);
  • the student has very little control over the process (the sequence is fixed, the solution strategies are “forced”, …);
  • the navigation system should be improved: all links replace the current page instead of opening a new window/tab (thus favoring dispersion and loss of focus) and this happens even when solving exercises clicking on the link for theory summary.

In short: the overall feeling is not bad, but there is space for improvement.

Giuseppe Fiorentino

About Roberto Natalini

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