COVID Unfinished Learning: 4 Ways to Address it in WebAssign

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Unfinished learning has been a topic of much discussion in elementary and secondary education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It refers to the notion that students aren’t learning at the expected rate and may even be regressing in knowledge. While unfinished learning hasn’t been brought up as often in the higher education sphere, surveys conducted by Inside Higher Ed revealed that both students and faculty members believe that students have learned less over the last 18 months than they usually do.

Whether you’re teaching Developmental Math, Calculus or even Statistics—there’s a good chance your students have experienced learning loss or interrupted learning because of COVID. This causes students to lack prerequisite knowledge, confidence or effective study skills.

The good news is that you have resources to help tackle these challenges head on. Let’s explore a few ways you can support your students in overcoming learning loss.


1. Address Students’ Mindset

It is essential to begin with students’ mindsets. The pandemic presented many challenges to students throughout the last year, including an increased strain on their mental health, motivation and focus. As they return to classes for another semester, give students tools to help them get into the right mindset for learning.

Some resources available to you in WebAssign include Math Mindset and College Success Modules. These modules offer a variety of topics for you to choose from. They support your students in refining their learning skills as they return to the classroom. You may want to consider modules such as time-management, growth mindset, communication skills, learning and memory among others. Each module includes reflective questions to help students understand how the topic applies to their own lives.


2. Provide Opportunities for Self-Remediation

It’s hard to predict whether students will need remediation at the beginning of the semester without assessment of their skills. However, you may not have the time to create or incorporate assessment and remediation into your course plan.

Instead, you can make it easy for students to practice their prerequisite Math skills with free Math Readiness Boot Camps that can be added to any WebAssign course. These bootcamps include an assessment and embedded practice material. You can make these optional for practice or assign them for a grade at the beginning of the semester.

“I have created some short videos to help students who need some remedial help on our concepts and technology tools. A refresher unit that is pretty short can really improve how students start the semester. Cengage has helped with having so much great content that can be used by students in many different ways.” – Angela Nino, Dallas College – Richland Campus


3. Use Acceleration to Avoid Leaving Students Behind

According to Education Week, acceleration—moving forward with grade-level content and only addressing prerequisite skills and concepts as necessary—can be a more successful and equitable technique than remediation. This ensures students aren’t left behind or stuck on remedial tracks that may prevent them from moving on.

You can apply acceleration in various ways in WebAssign, depending on how much remediation your students need.


Extensive Remediation Required

If you’re worried your students will be critically underprepared for your spring course, talk to your Cengage Rep about adopting a Corequisite solution. A corequisite solution is a bundle of two textbooks and assignments, mapped to learning objectives. One is for your course and one is for its prerequisite course. You can use these materials, including prerequisite quizzes, to assess and provide remediation to your students as they need it. Plus, the corequisite bundle is the same price as the credit textbook. Your students won’t pay extra for needing a little more remediation.


Some Remediation Needed

If your students need some remediation throughout the semester, consider designing your course to incorporate scaffolding techniques. Scaffolding is a great technique that breaks down each topic into digestible steps. It helps students understand each skill and prerequisite step needed to get to the final answer. Plus, scaffolding encourages you to provide resources that support student understanding along the way.

“Use video to introduce the courses and the assignments to the students weekly with helpful hints on completing the assignments” – Graceful Beam, Georgia Northwestern Technical College


Low Level of Remediation

Your students may be well-prepared for your course, but still need minor remediation throughout the term. Within WebAssign, there are unique question types that address the key topics and skills needed to be successful in that specific course.

We’ve gathered a few of our favorites below that can be added to your course through the question browser or free additional content.

  • Applied Calculus & Finite Math – Algebra Remediation Exercises: Help your students practice prerequisite algebra concepts by assigning Algebra Remediation exercises at the beginning of the course or for just-in-time review.
  • Applied Calculus & Finite Math – Chapter Warm Up Exercises: Prepare your students for the upcoming course topics with prerequisite problems that address skills needed to be successful in the following chapter.
  • Calculus – Just-in-Time Exercises: Reinforce key prerequisite skills at the time students need the support. These exercises remediate important Algebra skills to prepare students for success with the more complex exercises in the section.
  • Calculus – Readiness Assessment: Help students test their pre-existing course knowledge and brush up on key Precalculus skills with this readiness assessment. It’s perfect for just-in-time support throughout the semester, or at the beginning of the term.
  • Developmental Math – Learn It Modules: An additional resource within questions, Learn Its provide targeted instruction and practice on that topic using narrative, videos and tutorials—all in one place. Students also have the option to go deeper and remediate on their prerequisite skills for each topic.
  • Precalculus – Readiness Assessment: Address student readiness gaps by providing solid review of prerequisite concepts and skills with Precalculus Readiness Assessment modules. They cover a variety of algebra skills and can be used whenever the review is needed.
  • Statistics – Precalculus and Calculus Review Material: Available for Advanced Statistics courses, students can brush up on their Precalculus and Calculus skills needed for Statistics course topics. The exercises include examples, explanations and videos to help students refresh their skills before or while they work on homework.


4. Help Students Plan Ahead and Have Contingency Plans

Students may need some extra support while getting settled into the traditional learning environment. Make sure you have a detailed syllabus as well as clear expectations for the upcoming semester. You should also inform students of any contingency plans to prevent further learning loss if instruction needs to move online.

To ensure students read your syllabus, you could create an assignment in WebAssign, upload your syllabus to the instructions and make sure students read it by having them answer a quick follow-up question. If you need any help creating your assignment, the WebAssign Content team is available to help.

“I prepare my students a week before class with a welcome letter and an abbreviated “infographic” syllabus that highlights key elements of the course. The longer syllabus is also attached.” – Dr. Billi L. Bromer, Brenau University


One of the biggest lessons we’ve all learned from the last 18 months is to be prepared. Don’t leave your students behind. Make sure you have a solid plan to support your students with quality remediation should they need it.


Do you need more tips to support student readiness in your course? Explore some additional teaching strategies from instructor Judy Hante.