Doctoral defence in Statistics – Anna Helga Jónsdóttir

Benedikt Magnússon, April 16, 2015
When: Friday, April 17, 2015 – 14:00
Location: The Aula, Aðalbygging – Main building
anna_helgaOn Friday the 17th of April Anna Helga Jónsdóttir will  defend her Ph.D. thesis in Statistics. The thesis is titled: Development and testing of an open learning environment to enhance statistics and mathematics education.

The defence will take place in the Aula at the Main Building and starts at 14:00.

Opponents are dr. Per B. Brockhoff, Professor at the Technical University of Denmark and dr. Robert C. delMas, Associate professor at the University of Minnesota.

The supervisor is dr. Gunnar Stefánsson, Professor at the Faculty of Physical Sciences at the University of Iceland. The doctoral committe also includes dr. Freyja Hreinsdóttir. Associate professor at the University of Iceland and dr. Auðbjörg Björnsdóttir. Director of the Centre of Teaching at the University of Akureyri.

The ceremony will be chaired by dr. Oddur Ingólfsson, Professor and Vice Head of the Faculty of Physical Sciences at the University of Iceland.


The work done in relation to this thesis can be split up into three parts. In the first part, mathematical skills of first year students in the School of Engineering and Natural Sciences, University of Iceland, are investigated. A status exam was administrated to the students in the beginning of their first semester from 2011 to 2014. The results show that a large proportion of students lack basic skills in mathematics. Analysis of variance was used to investigate which background variables are linked to performance on the test. Secondary school, gender, year of diagnostic test, time since last mathematics course in secondary school, number of semesters of mathematics courses in secondary school and the students’ perception on how well they did in mathematics in secondary schools and how well they are prepared were all linked to performance on the test. The result on the diagnostic test was also found to be a good predictor of performance in first year calculus courses, specially for students in mathematics, physics and engineering.

In the second part, development of an open learning environment, the tutor-web, is described. The system has been under development in the University of Iceland for the past decade. Educational material within mathematics and statistics is available within the system at no cost for the users, including over 4000 exercises. Novel algorithms for allocating exercises to students as well as grading with the goal of increase learning have been developed.

In the third part, the performance of students working in the open learning environment is compared to the performance of students handing in pen-and-paper homework. A repeated randomized crossover trial was conducted where students were given unexpected tests in class after working in the tutor-web or handing in traditional homework. A significant difference in learning between web-based homework (WBH) and pen-and-paper homework (PPH) was detected, supporting the use of WBH as a learning tool.

About the doctoral candidate

Anna Helga Jónsdóttir was born in Reykjavík on the 2nd of April 1979. She obtained a BS in mechanical and industrial engineering from the University of Iceland (UI) in 2003 and a MSc in applied mathematics from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in 2005. She has been involved in research and teaching at DTU and UI since 2006.