Published: March 31, 2010

Classes like Calculus 3 and Differential Equations at CU Boulder have about 350 to 400 students each semester. Dr. Anne Dougherty, an Associate Chair and senior instructor in the Applied Mathematics Department, has experienced firsthand the challenges of managing students’ assignments in large classes.  To solve this problem, she has envisioned ‘The Applied Math Electronic Submission System (AMESS)’, a program which will enable students to submit their lab assignments electronically and create a space for professors and students to interact.

The AMESS system was originally developed about five years ago.  However, it is no longer functional because of changing computer programs and operating systems.  The AMESS  system will be redesigned and enhanced over the coming semester.

Dr. Dougherty explained that one of the main aims of the Calculus 3 and Differential Equation classes is that they encourage students to use technology. Students are assigned with three computer projects each, in which they are required to take the theory they have learned from the class and try to enhance it with a real life application using technology. However, in classes with 350 to 400 students, a major part of this learning goal involves managing interactions with students and providing timely feedback. Considering the nature of the assignments, Dr. Dougherty believes that professors should be able to track the progress of students during the semester.

Dr. Dougherty hopes that AMESS will help faculty in Applied Math retain their pedagogical goals for the large classes while also streamlining the assignment management process. With this program, professors may be able to track down the student’s progress and give more time to each students work individually. She explained, “With this project, we hope to get electronic submission system that can handle a large volume of projects, deal with many student groups, check for possible plagiarism, read and grade projects online.”

A number of students will be recruited to be involved in developing the program. The new recruiters are expected to analyze different software, design code and works toward integrating AMESS with ITS systems. The students are recruited primarily from the computer science department with a strong background in programming and databases. This job may prove to be challenging for some students but at the same time, Dr. Dougherty also states, “This will be a great experience that will work for the benefit of the students who are programming this software.”

The AMESS program will hopefully be applied in the Calculus 3 and Differential Equation classes soon. Not only because it can handle volumes of assignments and projects, but it can also check for student progress, possible plagiarism, and generally provide a space for professors and students to progressively interact over the semester.

Dr. Dougherty recently received an ASSETT Development Award. This award will allow Dr. Dougherty to fund the team of students during Spring 2010 and work toward developing the AMESS program.

Written by: Manaslu Bista, CU ’11, ASSETT Reporter