Contributor: Michael Lafreniere, Associate Professor, Ohio University–Chillicothe.
At the start of every new term, I find it helpful to reassess my philosophy and approach to helping students start off empowered and filled with insights to help them succeed in the mathematics course I am about to offer them. Students need acquainting with the road map (e.g., syllabus) and tool set (e.g., technology such as Enhanced WebAssign) that will help them succeed in their learning. My desire is to share with you some of the tactical steps you can take to help your students embark on an exciting experience in mathematical learning this coming semester.
1. Use a Roadmap
For the roadmap, I create a YouTube video of my review of the course syllabus that is required for them to view before coming to the first day of class. I use screen annotation tools to markup the syllabus with points of emphasis and include a picture within a picture of me that highlights my hand gestures and facial expressions to catch the emotion with which I wish to display.
Use a Tool Set
As for acquainting my students with the tool set, the next few items are techniques tested for success.
2. Textbook and Access Code
Whether you have an institutional learning management system (LMS) to help with student single sign-on or have students enroll in your course using a class key, it is imperative that you drive your students to securing their purchase of the textbook and Enhanced WebAssign access code.
3. Grace Period
I set up my course and open student access to WebAssign on the first day of the semester, so they get the full two-week grace period to work on their assignments. Thankfully, it’s easy to get this extended a week or two, if needed, to help your students who have trouble getting financial aid. Before seeking an extension of the grace period, consider checking which students need help getting their access code by selecting the “Who’s Registered?” link in your class roster.
4. Getting Started with WebAssign Assignment
Another helpful technique is to use a practice activity in WebAssign as your first assignment to help your students get familiar with the tools they will likely use in your course. I use an assignment that I got from my Learning Consultant at Cengage Learning that you can borrow by searching for Assignment #5741770. In this assignment, I include a step-by-step YouTube video that I made showing how to use mathematics to solve each of the questions in this assignment. The goal is for the student to see the WebAssign tool in use through the video and follow along the steps in the video when entering a possible answer in WebAssign may not feel intuitive. I give students many attempts to complete each question and require they complete this assignment at the 100% level to open up assignments that count toward their grade. (This assignment is not included in their overall grade calculation.)
Finally, you should help your students get acquainted with the electronic version of their textbook by providing links directly to the page number you want them to start reading. You can provide such links in an email to students (who have access to WebAssign), in a question that could use a reference to concepts and examples in the textbook, or in an assignment that pertains to a particular topic in the textbook. To acquire a link to a specific page in the electronic textbook, open your view of the textbook, copy the link in the address bar of the browser, and append “&page=#” to the end of the link.
Try it out before you use it by pasting it into another browser window address bar and appending he desired page number. For example, page 2 is the desired starting page of this address by appending “&page=2” as shown in the figure below.
In all, as an Enhanced WebAssign technology power user over the past years, I find caring support and assistance from my Learning Consultant and Digital Support Coordinator at Cengage Learning when using these resources to instruct my mathematics students. The experience continues to improve my students’ engagement and success in their learning of mathematics. Using these techniques helped my students get started in a positive manner, and my hope is for you and your students to experience the same.
Michael Lafreniere is an associate professor of environmental engineering technology and mathematics at Ohio University-Chillicothe, where he has been teaching since 1994. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1991, and his M.E. in Environmental Engineering in 1994, both from the University of Florida. Currently, he is working on a doctoral degree in mathematics education from Ohio University to improve the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) offerings available to students. Mike uses Enhanced WebAssign in conjunction with self-made, online videos and a 1:1 tablet computer environment in what he calls a “Collaboratory.” This includes in-class and online students, where students in his STEM courses benefit from the mastery approach inherit with WebAssign’s randomization features. Mike stresses the conceptual understanding, adaptive reasoning, and strategic competencies in conjunction with the procedural fluency commonly found in STEM courses. He provides the support and patience necessary for colleagues to implement many of his experiences in teaching and facilitation of learning.