WebAssign Users Presenting at EDUCAUSE Connect

We are excited to announce that WebAssign users Dr. Barbara Illowsky and Michael Lafreniere will be leading sessions at EDUCAUSE Connect in San Diego, taking place January 28-30, 2015.

EDUCAUSE Connect provides higher education, IT professionals with an opportunity to join their peers in networking, discussion, learning, and career development. This 3-day event features interactive sessions that address IT issues specific to higher education with the goal of finding workable solutions.

Barbara will be participating in a panel discussion about open educational resources (OER) on Wednesday, January 28th from 2:15-3:15 p.m. PT. Barbara, a professor of mathematics and statistics at De Anza College and co-author of Introductory Statistics by OpenStax College, will share her experience in the OER movement. This movement provides valuable content at an affordable price for educational administrators while creating new challenges for IT administrators. She will share how and why she develops partnerships with outside companies, including WebAssign, in her talk “The OER Ecosystem: Partnering to Ease Content Distribution.” Barbara will provide participants with applicable learning on how to:

  • Ensure secure and continued access to required course materials
  • Discover new ways to contribute to lowering student costs
  • Partner with outside companies to ensure interoperability

Michael will be discussing collaborative learning environments on Friday, January 30th from 8:30-11:30 a.m. PT. Michael, an associate professor at Ohio University Chillicothe Campus, will co-lead a session entitled “How to Create Collaborative Learning Environments Online and Offline to Improve Student Outcomes.” This exploration will include:

  • Creating collaborative physical and online spaces that enhance student outcomes
  • Increasing engagement and participation
  • Investigating and learning to use online tools

Are you going to be attending EDUCAUSE Connect this year? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday Funny!

adult math

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Instructor Spotlight: Willem Wallinga

Highlighting the innovative work of our outstanding faculty users is something we love to do here at WebAssign. This week we are taking a look at Willem Wallinga, an Assistant Professor at Fisher College in Boston, MA. We spoke with Willem about his teaching background and how he uses WebAssign.

WillemWallingaWhat is your educational background and teaching history?

I have BS and MS degrees in Mathematics from Clarkson University, as well as an MST degree in Secondary Mathematics from SUNY Potsdam. I am currently working to complete a PhD in Mathematics Education from the University of New Hampshire. I first started teaching as a Graduate Assistant at Clarkson University in 1998.

After completing my Masters Degrees, I moved to the Boston area and took on several adjunct appointments, including Bentley University, Salem State University, and North Shore Community College. In 2000, I married my wife and we moved to Keene, NH, so that she could pursue graduate work. While there I was employed full-time as a math teacher at Keene High School. Since 2009, I have been employed full-time at Fisher College in Boston. My wife and I have three children now and will be celebrating 15 years of marriage later this year!

What is your teaching philosophy?

In a nutshell, my teaching approach emphasizes communication, accessibility, and attention to individual student needs. Since I primarily work with students who have difficulty with math, these three areas are the foundation of my teacher-student relationships. Using WebAssign has improved my performance in each of these areas dramatically.

 What teaching practices do you employ to get your students engaged in learning?

I mainly use a form of “active lecture” where I am primarily at the board but I am consistently engaged in a conversation with the class regarding the material at hand. I learn the students’ names during the first week and encourage them to be involved as much as possible. One strategy is to ask students if they can provide the first step to a solution rather than having them complete the entire procedure; even when a student response is technically incorrect, I try to find something positive that can be contributed to the discussion. Perhaps the error can be used to highlight a common misconception or it can even be used to motivate a separate problem.

I also like to craft problems on the spot that are based on individual student majors. That type of improvisational approach has been particularly effective in showing students the relevancy of the material in their own careers and demonstrating to them that I am not teaching a recorded lecture.

What are your best practice suggestions for using WebAssign?

1.  I love using WebAssign for weekly homework assignments. I typically hold an in-class quiz on the day after each assignment is due to check for understanding.
2.  I make frequent use of the Ask Your Teacher option when communicating with students on individual problems.
3.  I limit student responses to 5 attempts. That way, students who continually get answers wrong must contact me to discuss the issue and once it has been resolved, I reopen the assignment.
4.  I use Master It problems and selected problems from the Tutorial Bank in order to scaffold topics within assignments.
5.  I encourage students to review the solutions to each assignment and attempt the Personal Study Plan assessments as practice (I offer class participation points).
6.  This past semester, I held weekly WebAssign lab periods in my Foundations of Algebra class. This was very successful.

How do you utilize the calculus and algebra tutorial banks to get the most value out of them?

These are one of my favorite aspects of WebAssign. I love browsing through the sections, looking for the perfect problem to complement my assignment. The tutorial problems emphasize process over product, requiring the students to show the work but also helping them to understand the entire problem. I use them sparingly – only a few questions here and there to highlight certain areas of each assignment, too many can be overwhelming to the students!



Friday Funny!

transport proteins


Have a better math/science/teaching joke than this one? Email us to have it posted as one of our future Friday Funnies!

Friday Funny!


Have a better math/science/teaching joke than this one? Email us to have it posted as one of our future Friday Funnies!

How to Make an IT Admin Happy

Are new interoperability standards a solution to integration headaches?

GUEST POST | by John Lepanto, Associate Product Manager at WebAssign

As a product manager who oversees third-party integrations at WebAssign, I am tasked with researching a lot of different products. And I do mean a lot of products. It seems that every time I login to my email I see a few of these, “Have you heard of this new online proctoring service?” or, “Hey, can you check out this new learning management system?” It’s getting to the point where I can’t even keep track of all the new edtech vendors.

It can take weeks, sometimes even months, and a lot of resources to build a custom integration between software platforms, so how does one solve this issue?

The education technology space is experiencing a period of tremendous growth and innovation. It has been estimated by the Software and Information Industry Association that the PreK-12 edtech market size is nearly $8 billion. The global education market, according to IBIS Capital, has reached $4.4 trillion.

While having a huge assortment of services and technologies at their disposal can be an instructor’s dream, it can be a technologist’s worst nightmare. Attempting to make many different software applications work together in perfect harmony is a major undertaking. It can take weeks, sometimes even months, and a lot of resources to build a custom integration between software platforms, so how does one solve this issue?


Enter the standards-based education technology integration. IMS Global Learning Consortium has developed a set of interoperability standards that could make integrating the plethora of learning technologies scalable and affordable for both schools and technology companies. Gathering feedback from the edtech community, IMS Global created specifications for integrating education technology products and content which can help alleviate many of the pains the industry is experiencing.

For a smaller company, creating custom system integrations for every school, learning management system, or other product would be too cost prohibitive to build and support. Most companies have limited resources and I imagine would rather use those resources building their product offering instead of developing a custom integration for every system they wish to integrate with. Utilizing the IMS Global standards, you can build the integration once and deliver an offering for all conformant products. That is a huge win for the company and their customers.

For the schools adopting these products, standards-based integrations are also a win. Instead of spending weeks with back and forth emails and calls setting up a custom integration, school IT administrators can have a new product or content integrated into their school’s learning ecosystem in a couple of clicks. In most cases instructors can integrate third-party products and content into their course by themselves, without the help of the IT department. Tell me that doesn’t make an IT admin happy.

While there will be times where a custom integration will be needed, it is always a great idea to look for a way to implement some kind of standard. Standards based integrations can save time, effort and headache, and in the end allow edtech companies, schools and educators to focus on what is really important, teaching and learning.

We want to hear from you! What great or not so great product integrations have you encountered? Tell us in the comments below. 

Friday Funny!


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