Feature Contest Top 5 Spotlight: Professor Donna Flint

Professor Donna Flint’s feature idea of allowing for the override of a grade on an individual problem is one of our top 5 feature nominees in the Make Your Voice Heard Contest.

Donna Flint is a Professor and Assistant Department Head at South Dakota State University.  She has taught there for 12 years in a number of courses ranging from Basic Algebra to Calculus to Senior and Graduate Level Analysis Courses.

How long have you used WebAssign?

This fall was actually my first semester using WebAssign in my own class, though I have used other on-line systems and am familiar with the program because of my role as administrator in the department.  I used it in an Honors Calculus II class and in a Matrix Algebra course for homework.

What WebAssign features do you use/like most?

I liked the access to the e-book with videos for students.  I also liked the capability of writing my own questions.  I did this to write reading questions for my Matrix Algebra course.  Of course, I also like the fact that my students can do homework and get feedback without me having to grade piles of papers!

What are some of your best practice methods concerning WebAssign or teaching in general?

  • I allow for extensions with penalty (automatically allowed).
  • I allow students 3 tries per question.  I started out the semester allowing 5 tries per question, but students complained the homework took too long.  If they missed the question and then used the help tool, they were able to determine if their concept understanding was correct.  If it was, they just needed to find a small error somewhere.  Allowing fewer tries meant that instead of trying to find their errors all night, they would stop at two tries and then ask in class or come to my office for help.  At that time, I could verify that their concept understanding was correct and that they did indeed only have a small error.
  • I make my assignments due at 5:00 pm.  I think this encourages students to do their work during the day when they can get help if needed.
  • I like the idea of reading questions to help students learn how to read a textbook.  Students find that difficult and frequently complain about it, but I think it is one of the skills our students really lack that prevents them from becoming independent learners.  So many students (even through their senior year) just want their lecture and the answers.

How would your new feature suggestion impact your teaching?

My new feature of allowing for the override of a grade on an individual problem would just make it easier to grade.  Students often want to go over their homework and if I am willing to give them partial credit for their work, it would be nice to be able to record that per problem, rather than have to change the entire grade.  If I want to go back later, I’d like to know where the extra points were assigned.

We also use WebAssign in a large lecture environment. Students take their exams online, but we still grade some of the problems for partial credit.  Our TA’s grade the partial credit problems and it would be much easier if they could award (or remove points) per problem – instead of having to record changes then post them as total changes.  This would also allow the students and instructors to know what caused a grade change.

To vote for this idea or any of our other top 5 winners head to UserVoice or Facebook now!

Preparing for a New Semester: Creating a New Course

Creating a course is the first step toward using WebAssign to manage your class assignments. You will want to create a new course for each term.  Please note, do not change the end times of an old course to use it for next semester.  Instead, create a new course and propagate assignments over.

To create a course:

1) From the toolbar, click Create > Course.

2) Complete the Course Information section. Be sure to set Date Visible to Students to the first day of class.

3)  Complete the Textbooks section. When selecting your textbook, choose the correct title and edition, and select the check box to certify that you are using the textbook in your class.

4) Complete the Communication section. Select Enabled for each of the communication types you want to allow.

5) Click Next.

6) Label and identify meeting days and times for the course sections you created.

7) Click Save. You can add sections to a course during the course creation process, or after you create the course by clicking Edit Class Info and then Add Section.

For a more detailed description of setting up your course please refer to our online help guide.

WebAssign T-Shirt Design

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And The Nominees Are…

The results from our Make Your Voice Heard contest are finally in!  Thank you to everyone who participated by sending your feature idea in or voting on others.  We received over 70 different feature ideas and had over 200 votes.  The top 5 ideas are as follows in no particular order:

1) Add the capability to override the grade on individual problems instead of on an assignment as a whole.

Submitted by Donna Flint, South Dakota State University

2) Add features so WebAssign can be used as a student response system (“clicker”) with smartphone/web browsers.

Submitted by Peter Bohacek, Henry Sibley High School

3)  Send students a text on their cell phone for assignments alerts.

Submitted by Jared Daily, North Platte Community College

4) Allow freezing of column headers (assignments) and rows headers (students) in GradeBook for viewing larger rosters of grades.

Submitted by Michael Lafreniere, Ohio University-Chillicothe

5) Add a sort feature to the “My Assignments” list

Submitted by Carole Simard, California Polytechnic State University & Cuesta Community College

Now comes the hard part!  We need help picking which idea will be turned into a reality.  Review the feature idea nominees and vote for your favorite by heading to our UserVoice or Facebook page. The winning idea will be announced after April 1st and the winner will receive a VIP trip to our 2012 WebAssign Users Group Meeting on June 21-22.

Stay tuned to our blog as the top 5 ideas, along with the professors who submitted them, are highlighted in spotlight posts throughout the coming weeks.   If your idea was not picked this time, be assured that we are reviewing all of the wonderful ideas we received for future feature updates!

Friday Funny: Behind the Scenes at WebAssign

How WebAssign employees tell time…

Teacher Spotlight: Sophie Chrysostomou

Highlighting the great work of our ourstanding teachers is one of our favorite things to do. I hope you will gain some valuable knowledge by reading our latest teacher spotlight on WebAssign user Professor Sophie Chrysostomou, who has taught at the University of Toronto Scarborough in Ontario, Canada for 20 years.

Tell us a bit about your current teaching experience and some teaching background.

During my years at the University of Toronto Scarborough I have taught various Math courses including Calculus I and II, Linear Algebra, Number Theory, Groups and Symmetry, Differential Equations, and Analysis. I have had classes that range from 20 to 800 students.

How long have you been a WebAssign user?

I have been using WebAssign since the fall of 2009.

What teaching practices do you employ to fully engage your students?

My students have weekly quizzes in the tutorials and WebAssign homework. This year I have introduced Clickers as well.

What WebAssign features do you use on a regular basis that have worked well for you?

I and my students use the ebooks frequently. In my assignments I include questions that have “Master it”  and tutorial type of questions. I also use the GradeBook at the end of the term to calculate the WebAssign portion of the final grade for each student.

What are your “best practice” methods when using WebAssign in your classroom?

My assignments are weekly. I put 10-30 questions on the assignments depending on the questions and topics. The first time I used WebAssign in 2009 I allowed many submissions without penalizing. Now I allow only 5 submissions for questions that require the student to input the answer and only 1 for multiple choice questions. I do not allow extensions.

In my year-long calculus section (in which students have a weak mathematics background), I have more frequent (3 a week) and much smaller assignments. This practice helps to engage the students almost daily in practicing their calculus skills. I believe that is very valuable to their learning.

Any other information you would like to share that might be useful to other teachers

In a large course where grading many assignments by TAs is not possible, WebAssign offers a way to have the students do weekly homework for graded credit. This provides the students a way of learning by doing homework weekly and getting credit for it. The students are motivated to do the work mostly for earning the marks, but in the process they learn as well.

I have found that the WebAssign support team was readily available when needed and always very helpful. There were times when I needed questions removed from the assignment halfway into the week and the support team helped me to do this, as well as regrade all the assignments. More recently, I had many students switch between different courses and again the support team helped me to do this as painlessly as possible.

We thank Professor Chrysostomou for sharing her teaching experience with us and as always we would love to hear how WebAssign is working for you! Send us an email today!

Friday Funny

Thanks to blog reader Paul Rotaru for today’s math joke!

Person 1: What’s the integral of 1/cabin with respect to cabin?
Person 2: A log cabin.
Person 1: No, a houseboat; you forgot to add the C!

Send in your best math/science/teacher joke today!