Chaitali Botcha is a Cengage Student Ambassador and recent graduate of Texas A&M University. She is currently pursuing her master’s in medical science at the University of North Texas.
If your students are STEM majors like me, then chances are they have taken a math class or two throughout their college journey. At Texas A&M University (TAMU), WebAssign is extensively used for many math classes such as Statistics and Calculus. It’s a great tool to be able to quickly access your course from virtually anywhere, complete assignments in a timely manner, and earn grades.
WebAssign is most commonly used for homework, which usually contributes to about 10-20% of students’ grades in college-level classes. But did you know you could utilize WebAssign for exams and quizzes? These can make up 50-70% of an entire course grade! It would save you valuable time in grading assessments and benefit your students as well. So, let’s talk about how WebAssign exams benefit both students and professors.
Complete exams from anywhere
One of the greatest things about WebAssign is that students can access it virtually anywhere and complete assignments in a timely and efficient manner. This is a game-changer, especially for non-traditional students juggling a full-time job, family, or other priorities outside of school.
Give students more options to help them learn
Quizzes and tests are intended to assess students’ knowledge of course concepts. So, how do you position an assessment as a learning opportunity, rather than just a grade in a gradebook that they may or may not remember later?
Build learning into exams
If you deliver exams with WebAssign, you can determine the flexibility and resources available to students, such as additional attempts or access to their eTextbook.
One way to increase learning in exams is to give students multiple tries on questions to maximize their points. If you want to be more stringent, you can decrease the total points students receive per question as they use more of their attempts. While this may seem unfair at first, in my opinion, it is truly beneficial. I would rather have the additional attempts and be able to earn some points rather than get the whole question wrong. This grading system encourages students to try again and forces them to retain knowledge. As John C. Maxwell once said, “there is no success without failure and losses.”
WebAssign also provides additional cool features embedded into questions—such as the Read It links, which connect students to their eTextbook, or Watch It videos, which link students to a video that guides them through the content they’re learning. You get to decide which of these resources students are able to access during exams.
Allow students to practice from their exam
While it’s standard to hand back tests to students after they’re graded, what do students do with that test? In WebAssign, after the assignment due date has passed, students can review their answers and get extra practice on topics they got wrong. Often, these practice problems are very similar to the questions that may be presented on the quizzes and exams. This allows students to learn from their mistakes and use your exam as a study tool.
Ability to be flexible
I’m sure right before an assignment’s due date, you’re flooded with emails from students asking for more time. In WebAssign, there’s an assignment extension feature that allows students to request more time to complete their assignments in case of emergencies. You can even add a penalty if a student needs more time due to a reason you don’t necessarily agree with.
Although granting extensions might not be something you’re thrilled about, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that you can also easily grant more time for students who need accommodations. Let’s say you schedule a 60-minute exam, but a student needs an accommodation of an extra 30 minutes. You can simply grant this extra time to that student for the exam.
Saves time (and paper)
My university didn’t really use WebAssign for quizzes and exams, however, I often wondered why, as my peers at other institutions did. I believe that there are multiple benefits in having online assessments such as cutting down on paper usage, minimizing printing errors, and faster grading times.
Provide support during the exam with Ask Your Teacher
Students are concerned about not being able to ask for clarification on a question when taking exams online. In a classroom setting, it is easy to simply raise their hand and have a proctor come over to them and answer any questions. However, in my own experience with in-person exams, my professors typically didn’t come around and clarify any doubts. So, in that instance, I don’t think it really matters. In the instance that students feel a question was worded weirdly or feel there is more than one correct answer, they can simply use the Ask Your Teacher tool to seek clarification. You will see the exact question the student is working on and be able to respond right in WebAssign.
Combatting academic dishonesty
One of the biggest concerns often brought up by professors and administrators when it comes to online exams is academic dishonesty. Questions of time limit, cheating, and the need for teacher assistance come into play. While these are perfectly fair points to bring up, I think there are multiple ways to mitigate these issues.
Set a time limit
When a student takes an in-class exam, they are restricted to the 60 or 90 minutes of class time. Some of this time goes to checking IDs and passing out exam papers. If it is an online exam, students have the flexibility to start when they are completely ready. My master’s program has a window of when we can take a test. Once we start it, there is a time limit. I think that this is the best way to ensure everyone has plenty of time to take an assessment.
Usually, when online exams ARE proctored, professors provide a greater time limit and create the same questions to ensure students have plenty of time and that the questions are fair. What some of my professors have done in the past, if an exam is NOT proctored, is make every question randomized for each exam and reduce the time limit. Personally, I would rather have a proctored exam and have more time and an even playing field come exam day.
Use proctoring if needed
When it comes to academic dishonesty, I think some sort of proctoring system is generally necessary. I understand sometimes it can cause anxiety to students. They are afraid of slight movements that can trigger the proctoring system and flag them. I believe that proctoring is important because even in person, a student cannot avoid it. In fact, I find it strange how students are not more anxious during in-person examinations. There are so many checks and multiple eyes that are on them looking for anything strange.
While I have not personally used WebAssign for my Math quizzes or exams, I strongly believe that using it for assessments would be beneficial for both students and professors. I’m sure it will foster a healthy learning environment. Professors put so much time and attention into students’ well-being that they often forget to take care of their own mental and physical health. I hope you use this post to find strategies like using online learning platforms to save yourself time, while still providing a great learning experience for your students.
Ready to start building and administering exams in WebAssign? Check out our complete step-by-step guide to make the process easy.