E-Learning Unit

The E-Learning Unit of the School of Mathematics & Statistics specializes in researching, developing and implementing electronic based materials for learning and assessment in mathematics, statistics and numeracy. This work is in the forefront of developments in the UK and the implementations are being used at Newcastle University for a wide range of numerate disciplines in Higher Education (HE) including business studies, animal science, engineering and mathematics & statistics.

The unit works and is linked with the major developers of open-source systems in the UK. All future developments are freely available to the HE community.


The Unit has developed the open-source assessment system: Numbas, which is released under an Apache 2.0 license. Special features include:

  • enabling higher levels of mathematics and statistics applications if needed;
  • adapted and personalised feedback for students;
  • a rich multi-media environment.

It is unique as it is completely free to all, web-based and entirely client-sided. This results in easy and almost instantaneous installation. Apart from the internet, it can be distributed across Virtual Learning Environments, Learning Management Systems and can be included on DVDs. Newcastle is distributing Numbas on both Moodle and Blackboard for use in our courses as well as including it in e-learning and revision DVD packages (with video and text) for international students, engineering students, business studies students, mature students and also for new entrants as transition aids. No other system allows this flexibility of distribution together with this level of sophistication and feedback.

A database of questions, the work of many authors and higher eduction institutions, is available on the Numbas Editor site.


A demonstration of Numbas, an e-assessment system for mathematical disciplines
Christian Perfect CAA Conference 2015

A completely client-side approach to e-assessment and e-learning of mathematics and statistics
Bill Foster, Christian Perfect, and Anthony Youd International Journal of e-Assessment 2, 2012.

Barriers in integrating e-assessment into mathematics teaching and learning for first and second year students
Sally Barton, Bill Foster, Jeremy Livesley, and Michael McCabe Proceedings of the CETL-MSOR Conference 2011, Coventry University, 14–20, 2011.

Using computer based assessments in a large statistics service course
Lee Fawcett, Bill Foster, and Anthony Youd MSOR Connections 8, 45–48, 2008.

Using computer based assessment in first year mathematics and statistics degree courses at Newcastle University
Bill Foster MSOR Connections 7, 41–45, 2007.

Keeping control using computer aided assessment
Bill Foster MSOR Maths CAA Series, December 2004.

On-line teaching of mathematics and statistics
Bill Foster Teaching Mathematics and its Applications 22, 145–153, 2003.

Using a VLE for teaching foundation level mathematics and statistics
Bill Foster MSOR Maths CAA Series, October 2002.

Recent Talks and Workshops

2 day-long Numbas workshops supported by sigma network
Loughborough University, 6 July 2015

Demo at International Computer Assisted Assessment Conference
Zeist, Netherlands, 22 June 2015

Talk at IMA International Conference on Barriers and Enablers to Learning Maths: Enhancing Learning and Teaching for All Learners
University of Glasgow, 12 June 2015

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E-Learning Unit Members

Dr Bill Foster
Teaching Fellow

Dr Chris Graham
Director of E-Learning

Christian Perfect
E-Learning Officer