WebAssign: Building Connections in Austin

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As an instructor, you know the importance of creating connections. And at Cengage, our favorite part about working in higher education is making connections with faculty, like you. Which is why each summer, we host our annual WebAssign User Group (WAUG) event which brings together a group of STEM faculty to discuss all things WebAssign and higher education.

This year, we were joined by 21 faculty members in Austin, Texas for a three-day event to discuss new WebAssign features, share higher education strategies and build connections. Here’s what we learned.

Photo of an "ATX" sign with our WUAG event poster pointing attendees in toward the conference.

1. The top challenge in higher ed may not be readiness gaps

Before and following the pandemic, we heard that readiness gaps and learning loss disrupted classrooms everywhere. For the first time in years, we’re hearing that one student challenge has become more prominent than readiness gaps: student engagement.

During WAUG, instructors agreed that while readiness gaps will likely always be a challenge, student motivation and engagement are more prevalent concerns across their classrooms. Some examples they provided included:

  • Lack of engagement in the classroom
  • Bigger class sizes, which make it hard to communicate effectively and ensure class topics are relevant for a varied audience
  • Challenges with time management
  • Challenges with student motivation to meet deadlines and come to class

Gary Whalen, Sr. Product Director at Cengage leads the session on teaching challenges in higher ed.

Motivating students is challenging, as all students are different and require varied support. A faculty member suggested one strategy that stood out, specifically related to late or last-minute assignment submissions. They suggested you incentivize students to submit work early using points adjustments in your WebAssign assignment settings. This setting allows you to give students extra credit for submitting assignments a certain number of hours or days before the due date.


2. The secret to Class Insights is sharing them

Mike Lafreniere, a professor at Ohio University and Faculty Partner at Cengage led the group through a session on using —an analytics tool in WebAssign—to create teachable moments for students.

During this session, we found that most of our instructors’ tips for Class Insights involved sharing them with students and other faculty, whether to improve or report on performance. Here’s some ideas faculty suggested for using Class Insights in your class:

  • Document progress on learning objectives: Since Class Insights is organized by learning objective, one faculty member said she uses the data to show her school how students are performing in alignment with the learning objectives.
  • Exam review: Another faculty uses Class Insights when conducting an exam review. They determine which questions students got wrong most often and include these in the review, so students are prepared for the exam.
  • Review in class: One faculty member uses Class Insights to review homework in class. As a class, they review the top questions students struggled with, giving them the ability to learn from their mistakes.

Cassie Firth sharing her perspective to event attendees.

What ideas did you gain from this event?

Sharing [Class] insights with students. And using them to help answer questions or review.

-Cassie Firth, Northern Oklahoma College


3. When it comes to new improvements, flexibility is key

We were excited to give a sneak peek at a few new improvements coming to WebAssign, which faculty members will start to see in the new year. As we continue to build these improvements, we’re eager to hear how faculty would use them, and most importantly, what they needed to be successful.

The trend that emerged during this session is that we need to continue to reinforce the platform’s flexibility throughout each new improvement. Every instructor is different. Not every faculty member will be ready to jump at the sight of a new feature, and everyone won’t use it in the same way. While new features are exciting, we’ll continue to offer them as an option and give faculty time to adjust, receive training and understand the benefits before they start using it.

Andy Trus, Platform Product Director at Cengage leads the session on WebAssign improvements.

What was the most memorable session?

“Shaping The Future [of WebAssign]. It was really good to see some of the features coming soon to WebAssign, and I’m really excited…”

-Paul Holmes, University of Georgia


4. All work and no play is no fun!

Although we learned a lot at the WebAssign User Group, we also had a lot of fun. From a group dinner at III Forks Steakhouse, happy hour on the rooftop of the Westin Hotel and a private boat tour on Lady Bird Lake to see the bats leave the roost—we had no shortage of laughs and good times. We’re excited to reconnect with our WAUG participants as they continue to use WebAssign, and looking forward to the places and people we’ll connect with next year!

Attendees embark on a boat tour on Lady Bird Lake.


Learn about the latest improvements to WebAssign.