Jared Daily is currently a physics/engineering/math instructor at North Platte Community College in Nebraska. His feature idea of adding the ability to send students text message reminders for WebAssign assignment is one of our top 5 nominees in the Make Your Voice Heard contest. He has taught at North Platte Community College since 2007 after coming from the College of Eastern Utah, in Price, Utah where he held the same position. Read more to find out how Professor Daily has used WebAssign to enhance his classroom.
How long have you used WebAssign?
I began using WebAssign in January 2010. I was disturbed by a trend that I have been observing with increased frequency among my colleagues. So many math and science teachers are not assigning mandatory homework assignments to be returned for grading and feedback. It has always been my belief that mathematics should be taught as a language, and the only way to properly learn a new language is through immersion. Students learn little from reading and even less from lecture. They must work through problems and get their hands and minds into the work. I am convinced that WebAssign is the first truly useful application of computers in education.
How have you adopted WebAssign in your classroom?
I use WebAssign principally as a tool to deliver assignments and learning tools to my students. Enhanced WebAssign has been particularly effective on the learning end, and I have switched almost exclusively to those books. The students use the learning tools (videos, practice problems, book links) a great deal while completing their assignments. I do believe, however, that student feedback is the most appreciated tool for me as well as my students. My students like to know when they have successfully completed a problem or an assignment. I honestly believe that the little green checkmark acts as some sort of intellectual stimulant that drives students to care more about their math homework than ever before. I find that miraculous, and beneficial to my goals.
What are some of your best practice methods concerning WebAssign or teaching in general?
WebAssign provides an organizational structure for a class that is complex both in its subject and in the content. We cover so many topics, and I prefer to compartmentalize the topics in the assignments. I also incorporate writing assignments, analysis of data and many other activities. With all of these components in one place, the students are less confused and intimidated. They know what is expected, and they know when it is expected. I do use the automatic extension feature, because it is so easy to forget an assignment in such an intense course. They have the option of up to 3 1-hour extensions at a penalty of 5% per hour. This practice allows students to recover from minor lapses without any trouble. They only have 1 day to extend, which sets a boundary for those who would take advantage.
How would your new feature suggestion impact your classroom?
The most obvious impact of having text alerts comes from observing the students of today. Students rarely check email accounts. Many students do not even have an email account until the college assigns one to them. They all use Facebook and Twitter, but I do not care to enter those worlds just to reach my students. Also, students regularly ignore phone calls just by looking at the caller ID, but I have never seen a student ignore a text message. Nothing seems to stand in the way of checking and answering a text message.
In order to pass a tough math or science class, a student must stay on top of the work. I can think of no better way to encourage this than to infiltrate their regular communications constantly. Additionally, text-messaging seems to be an untapped resource for evaluation and assessment of students. Why not work in an option for students to answer quizzes with their cell phones and have the results for the entire class displayed on an assessment page? This would be like a clicker system built into WebAssign.