University College London Improves Computational Literacy with Online and Onsite MATLAB Training

Challenge

Enrich student coursework with project-based learning while enabling instructors to focus on teaching core concepts

Solution

Acquire a MathWorks Campus-Wide License and use MathWorks onsite training and online courses to accelerate student adoption of MATLAB campus-wide

Results

  • Program scalability enabled
  • Faculty and students focused on addressing real-world problems
  • Students equipped with required tools and skills

“One advantage of teaching with MATLAB is that our students are exposed to a tool that is used in the commercial world. The quality of the learning materials delivered online and onsite was excellent, enabling me to focus on teaching analytics and working with students.”

Daniel Hulme, University College London

First-year students using MATLAB for mathematical modeling.


University College London (UCL) is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary universities and the top-rated university in the U.K. for research strength.

Recently, UCL revamped its undergraduate engineering and computer science programs to link theoretical studies with practical exercises and projects. In parallel, UCL introduced a program in which postgraduate students work with local companies to solve business challenges using data analytics. Both initiatives were enabled in part by campus-wide access to MATLAB® via a MathWorks Campus-Wide License.

“As part of our new curriculum, we created a first-year mathematics course that focuses on modeling because that’s what engineers usually use mathematics for and is based on MATLAB because that is the tool researchers and engineers use to model the world,” says John Mitchell, vice dean education at University College London Engineering.

Online and onsite training has contributed to a 100% increase in the number of UCL undergraduate and graduate students using MATLAB in their studies and on research projects. “With the online resources from MathWorks, students can learn MATLAB outside class and instructors can spend more time teaching the core material,” Mitchell says.

Challenge

As UCL faculty began to place a stronger emphasis on problem-based learning, they identified three requirements. First, instructors needed problem sets that reflected real-world challenges in math, science, and engineering. Second, students needed access to the best tools for solving those problem sets. Third, faculty needed a way to introduce these tools to students in their first year without committing time and resources to developing a new course or formal lectures.

Faculty teaching graduate-level courses had similar requirements. In the master’s business analytics program, for example, students needed access to tools used by practicing data scientists. Because these students work directly with businesses, they needed to quickly develop the skills needed to solve data analytics problems using these tools.

Solution

UCL used online training courses from MATLAB Academy and MathWorks onsite training services to support its curriculum changes and increase computational literacy and MATLAB usage across campus.

The university established Mathematical Modeling and Analysis, a new first-year course for undergraduates that teaches the core mathematics, modeling, and analysis skills needed in later engineering coursework.

In this course, students use MATLAB to complete problem sets based on concepts covered in lecture. In early assignments, students perform basic calculations with vectors in MATLAB. Later assignments involve differential calculus and mathematical modeling.

Throughout the course, students learn MATLAB fundamentals and programming techniques from courses in the MATLAB Academic Online Training Suite, including MATLAB Fundamentals.

At the postgraduate level, students in the business analytics master’s program use MATLAB with Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox™ to complete projects that address challenges faced by real companies.

Before embarking on their projects, students in Programming for Business Analytics learned how to apply data analytics techniques using MATLAB. For three weeks, a MathWorks training engineer conducted workshops and onsite training that included content developed specifically for UCL business analytics students.

On one project, students used MATLAB to develop a solution that helped an energy company reduce costs by £59 million.

Now that UCL undergraduates learn MATLAB in their first year, UCL faculty are integrating MATLAB and Simulink® into upper-level courses, including a second-year course in which students will use Simulink and Arduino® hardware to develop real-time control systems for quadcopters. With these additional computational skills, students will be able to solve larger, more complex, and more realistic problems.

Results

  • Program scalability enabled. “My business analytics program will grow from 50 to 100 students over the next three years,” says Dr. Daniel Hulme, senior research associate at UCL. “The only way I can scale the program is by having the students do more self-learning through MATLAB Academy and other online resources.”
  • Faculty and students focused on addressing real-world problems. “The MathWorks onsite training did a much better job of delivering MATLAB content than I could,” notes Hulme. “That enabled me to concentrate on adding context and helping students apply that content to solve real-world problems.”
  • Students equipped with required tools and skills. “In the first 15 months after offering onsite training and access to MATLAB Academy, UCL saw MATLAB activations double,” says Mitchell. “Onsite training and online learning have helped UCL make the most of the Campus-Wide License. Campus-Wide License access to MATLAB is a real bonus to all our students.”

University College London 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.