School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics

E-Learning Unit

E-Learning Unit


Our e-learning unit specialises in researching, developing and implementing digital materials for e-learning and e-assessment in mathematics, statistics and numeracy.

This work is in the forefront of developments in the UK. 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
  • mathematics
  • statistics

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


Numbas is a free, web-based system developed by the e-learning unit. It helps users to build online mathematics exams, complete with videos and interactive diagrams.

Numbas is an open-source assessment system, developed by the e-learning unit and released under an Apache 2.0 license.

Special features of Numbas include:

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

Numbas is unique as it's 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.

We are 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.

EAMS Conference

The e-learning unit is hosting an international conference on e-assessment in mathematical sciences, taking place on the 13-14 September 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The conference aims to bring together researchers and practitioners with an interest in e-assessment for mathematics and the sciences. The conference will include presentations by speakers from around the world, workshops where you can try out the latest mathematical e-assessment systems, and a luxurious conference dinner at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

More information - including submitting proposals and how to register - can be found on the EAMS website.

The logo for the EAMS conference, taking place in September 2016. Reads 'EAMS 2016'.


Publications, papers and talks by staff from the e-learning unit.

A demonstration of Numbas, an e-assessment system for mathematical disciplines (PDF: 577KB)
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, 2012

Barriers in integrating e-assessment into mathematics teaching and learning for first and second year students (PDF: 4.7MB)
Sally Barton, Bill Foster, Jeremy Livesley and Micheal McCabe - CETL-MSOR Conference at Coventry University, 2011

Using computer-based assessments in a large statistics service course (PDF: 359KB)
Lee Fawcett, Bill Foster and Anthony Youd - MSOR Connections, 2008

Using computer based assessment in first year mathematics and statistics degree courses at Newcastle University (PDF: 359KB)
Bill Foster - MSOR Connections 7, 2007

Keeping control using computer-aided assessment (PDF: 43KB)
Bill Foster - MSOR Maths CAA Series, 2004

Online teaching of mathematics and statistics (PDF: 116KB)
Bill Foster - Teaching Mathematics and its Applications 22, 2003

Using a VLE for teaching foundation-level mathematics and statistics (PDF: 62KB)
Bill Foster - MSOR Maths CAA Series, 2002


The e-learning unit is comprised of the following members of staff from the School of Mathematics and Statistics.

Dr Chris Graham
Director of E-Learning

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5089

Christian Lawson-Perfect
E-Learning Officer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6209