Contributor: Willem Wallinga, Fisher College (Boston, MA).
Since 2012, Enhanced WebAssign has been a required component for every mathematics course at Fisher College in Boston, MA. During this time, I have directly observed the academic benefits at every level, from Pre-Algebra to Multivariable Calculus. In this article, I will summarize a few of the benefits that make teaching and learning mathematics with Enhanced WebAssign a superior experience over traditional methods.
Three Advantages to Assigning Enhanced WebAssign
1. Ongoing Self-Assessment
Successful mathematics educators rely on a variety of assessment techniques to evaluate student understanding. The best assessments are those that can additionally be used to provide constructive feedback. These formative assessments are often time-consuming and difficult for the teacher to employ on an effective and individual basis. Enhanced WebAssign provides students with immediate feedback, and requires students to evaluate their own understanding before moving on. Furthermore, the Ask Your Teacher option opens a direct line of communication for students to contact their instructors for assistance. In the Fall 2014 semester, I responded to more than 300 student questions (an average of about five per weekday). In
each case, I was able to view the original problem and any previous answers that the student had attempted. This allowed me to provide quick feedback and gain important insight into which students were having the most difficulty.
2. Easily Monitor Student Progress
The benefits of frequent feedback are most strongly felt by students in introductory courses. In my two sections of Fundamentals of Algebra, I held weekly practice sessions in the computer lab. Using Enhanced WebAssign allowed me to design problem sets from a variety of sources, including the Tutorial Bank for Introductory and Intermediate Algebra. During these periods, all students were actively engaged in solving problems related to recent topics presented in the classroom. I observed frequent use of embedded videos, practice problems, and the digital textbook. Each student was able to work at his or her own pace, and I was there to provide assistance when necessary. When the practice sets were completed, students would test their understanding through the Personal Study Plan quizzes. At every point of this process, I was able to track individual student performance with the click of a button.
3. Increased Student Retention
In addition to the academic benefits, students also save money when compared to the cost of purchasing hardcover textbooks. Each of these contributes to one of the most important factors in higher education, student retention. In the two years since instituting Enhanced WebAssign at Fisher College, retention rates have steadily increased. Although there are a myriad of factors influencing this improvement, I have seen firsthand how Enhanced WebAssign has enriched the teaching and learning of mathematics. Reports from other instructors and a majority of students echo this change.
Enhanced WebAssign provides unparalleled flexibility in designing assessments, monitoring student progress, and providing timely feedback. Students play a more active role in their education, and save money in the process. The advantages over traditional methods are realized on a daily basis, and bring the mathematics classroom firmly into the 21st century.
Willem Wallinga has been teaching mathematics, in one capacity or another, since 1998. During this time, it has been his pleasure to work with a wide variety of students from the New England area and beyond. Willem is an Assistant Professor at Fisher College in Boston, and also serves as head administrator for all mathematics courses. Willem has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mathematics from Clarkson University in addition to an M.S.T. degree in Secondary Mathematics from SUNY Potsdam. He will be completing a PhD in Mathematics Education from the University of New Hampshire.