Contributor: Yvette Hassakoursian, Glendale Community College (Glendale, California).
Although the content of math courses has not changed much over the past few decades, methods of teaching and delivery of material have. The era of lecture and group work is now more extensive and includes many different models. The introduction of technology has welcomed a more dynamic style of teaching, and Enhanced WebAssign (EWA) has taken those prototypes and expanded them even further.
Three Strategies to Boost Student Engagement in Your Courses
1. Use EWA in Your Lecture Courses
Teaching a face-to-face lecture course has many obstacles. How do we keep our students engaged in this digital age? How do we instill a sense of personal responsibility in our students and assure they complete their homework? Technology may help us answer some of these questions. Using EWA in our face-to-face class at GCC has increased student participation (both in-class and online) and homework completion rates are at an all time high. Students feel compelled to complete homework assignments because they get immediate feedback and can watch their grades fluctuate in real time in the Gradebook feature after submitting every assignment. Although this is an extrinsic motivation, students do perform better in classes using EWA (from a study done on our campus in Fall 2012). The software allows homework to be assigned on a daily basis and has flexible submitting options (e.g., allowing late homework to still count).
2. Use EWA to Deliver Material in Hybrid Courses
The term “hybrid” refers to classes taught half face-to-face and half online. How do we know if students are really spending the time online outside class? At GCC, we have experimented with these courses and found EWA to be extremely helpful in the delivery of the material. The software provides a platform for students to communicate outside of class and tracks the time students spend online. EWA also allows material to be presented in larger chunks. It allows for weekly release of homework assignments and quizzes along with video embedding. This allows an instructor to select any embeddable video (from YouTube, the author of the text, or often of himself/herself), embed it at the beginning of an assignment, and allow students to watch a presentation prior to starting to be better prepared. Students often claim that this is one of the most useful features of EWA.
EWA also allows departments to create complete course packages allowing students to uncover the material at their own pace. Students have all of the material at their fingertips at the beginning of the semester (with no deadlines or due dates) and they proceed through it step-by-step. An example of this versatility is the way we set up our self-paced courses at GCC: students are given access to the textbook, videos, all homework assignments, quizzes, and tests at the beginning of the semester and make their way speeding through the material they are comfortable with and taking time to focus on the material they struggle with. EWA allows the instructor to fully customize every detail of the class. Instructors can control everything from the number of attempts at a homework problem to how many times they may take a quiz; EWA even allows for flexible cut-off scores (e.g., 80% or better on quizzes, while requiring 70% or better on tests).
Enhanced WebAssign addresses BOTH students’ different learning styles AND instructors’ different teaching styles. It allows the instructor/department/division to customize courses and even programs to fit students’ diverse needs as well as goals for the school. With Enhanced WebAssign, instructors are able to implement innovative strategies with little risk, and isn’t that something worth exploring?
Yvette Hassakoursian is the director of the Self-Paced Math program at Glendale Community College (GCC), ranging from Basic Arithmetic to Elementary and Intermediate Algebra. She earned an A.A. from GCC, then continued to UCLA where she earned a B.S and M.A. in math with a specialization in computing. Returning to teach at her alma mater was something she never thought she would do. She wanted to be a software engineer, but found the teaching profession so rewarding that she took a major pay cut to get to where she is now. The importance of technology was evident to her early in her career as she began working with Educo in 2002, ALEKS, MyMathLab, and she has finally “seen the light” with WebAssign. Yvette studied field theory in graduate school, but now she spends her time on soccer, football, and baseball fields with her two sons.