New Analytics Tool for Students

We are excited to announce the release of our latest analytics feature for students, My Class Insights.

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Integrated with the WebAssign application, My Class Insights gives students an overview of concepts they have learned and topics they are struggling on based on data from students’ first attempt on a problem.

The user-friendly interface shows students a summary view of concept mastery, as well as provides the subsequent steps in the learning process. A practice button appears next to each topic so students can dive deeper into a series of similar question types.

“My Class Insights gives students more data and control over their learning, making WebAssign a powerful tool for increasing student engagement,” said Jack Narayan, WebAssign chief academic officer and mathematics professor. “Now students can quickly see the areas they need to pay more attention to, and the data presented in My Class Insights should encourage them to fully invest in learning before an exam.”

My Class Insights was designed primarily to act as a study tool, but can also be used as remediation or to identify gaps in prerequisite course knowledge. This new feature will be available via the student homepage in WebAssign for a select group of Summer II courses and will be available to all students for Fall 2015 courses. This is the latest feature in a series of analytical tools and reports WebAssign will continue to release throughout the year.

WebAssign Wins EdTech Digest’s Cool Tool Award

We are thrilled to announce that WebAssign was named the Collaboration Solution category winner for EdTech Digest’s Cool Tool Awards!

The mission of EdTech Digest is to tell the story of 21st-century education transformation. This year’s awards program highlighted the best and brightest tools, leaders, and trendsetters pushing forward today’s education revolution. The finalists and winners were selected as examples of well-known and highly regarded technology solutions.

“We are honored to be recognized by EdTech Digest,” said Rob Simora, WebAssign CTO. “Collaboration is an essential component to drive successful teaching and learning results, and WebAssign provides a range of useful tools and technology for students and faculty to work together.”

“In keeping with the mission of EdTech Digest, we are proud to share these cool tools, bold leaders, and innovative trendsetters that we hope will inspire learners and leaders everywhere,” said Victor Rivero, editor in chief, EdTech Digest. “These winners are reshaping the education culture, and they are creating a new and better future for students everywhere.”

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WebAssign Partners with University Science Books to Offer New Textbooks

We are pleased to announce that we now offer an online homework solution for the publishing company University Science Books.

“We are excited to expand WebAssign’s physical chemistry offering with McQuarrie and Simon’s Physical Chemistry: A Molecular Approach also known as “Big Red,” and Chang and Thoman’s Physical Chemistry for the Chemical Sciences,” said Erik Epp, WebAssign chemistry product manager. “WebAssign is already a leader in the advanced mathematics arena, so we are pleased to bring advanced grading options for algebraic expressions, linear and differential equations, and matrices to questions in physical chemistry.” These new titles feature links to a complete eBook and step-by-step derivation questions to help students understand complex ideas.

University Science Books has published quality books and textbooks in chemistry, physics, astronomy, biology, and environmental sciences for more than 35 years. In addition to the two physical chemistry titles, WebAssign also now offers an enriched question collection for the publisher’s popular title, McQuarrie’s General Chemistry, 4th edition.

“With WebAssign, we are able to provide users our affordable content through an effective, high-quality online instructional system,” said Jane Ellis, publisher at University Science Books. “This union enables us to support student learning at a deeper level.”

WebAssign and University Science Books will be exhibiting at the 249th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting and Exposition in Denver, CO from March 22-26, 2015. Visit us at booth #201 and University Science Books at booth #605.

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.

In Memory of James Stewart

We want to take a moment to pay our respects to James Stewart, an inspirational educator, world-renowned author, and mathematician, who passed away peacefully surrounded by family at his home in Toronto, Canada on Wednesday, December 3. Read the official media release.

In the last forty-plus years since two of his students at McMaster University suggested he write his own calculus book, world-renowned author and mathematician James Stewart basically never stopped writing. Having essentially devoted his life to mathematics, Jim published over seventy textbooks, releasing a new text or edition almost every year. But calculus wasn’t Jim’s only passion. In addition to being a mathematician he was also a concert-level violinist and music philanthropist. These very different themes played an integral role in his life as told in the upcoming feature documentary, “The Integral Man,” created by Auratic Media.

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During his life he donated generously to the University of Toronto, McMaster University, which named their Mathematics Building “The James Stewart Mathematics Centre” and The Fields Institute of Math which named their library “The James Stewart Library.” He also financially supported young musicians in their career development, many of whom are now recognized as outstanding performers.

Recently, Engaging Minds sat down with Jim at his home in Toronto, Canada to discuss his love of mathematics, how students learn, and the role of technology in calculus education.

Watch excerpts from Cengage’s interview with James Stewart below.

As they sat with Jim, they gathered a wealth of insights about teaching and learning. Here are a few of their favorites:

  • Technology brings calculus to life. Calculus can be regarded as the mathematics of motion. It shows things approaching other things. This can be hard to convey that in a static object like a book, but on the screen, calculus comes alive.
  • Jim wanted students to see that calculus is both practical and beautiful. Throughout his books, he incorporated that message with the practical aspect of mathematics. Solving problems is very powerful, but that is only one aspect of calculus; Jim also wanted students to discover the inherent beauty of calculus. This is challenging to convey because one cannot explain or realize it all at once—it is cumulative.
  • When students came to his office for help on a particular topic, and other students brought similar problems, Jim realized the topics that may need further explanation or pedagogical improvement. When he began writing his first edition years ago, Jim paid attention to his students, and to the questions that they were asking.

Read the transcript of Cengage’s interview with James Stewart.

The legacy continues

The team at Cengage worked with Jim before his passing to create a plan to continue his legacy. Jim selected and mentored his team of co-authors over the years to carry on the vision for his books to maintain his voice, approach and accuracy.  Jim touched the lives of many and he will be mourned, but he will not be forgotten. His legacy will live on to enrich the lives of others still to come.

WebAssign Named to Triangle Business Journal’s 2014 Fast 50 List

We are happy to announce that WebAssign was recently ranked #40 on the Triangle Business Journal’s 2014 Fast 50 List. This honor ranks us among the most successful private companies that have experienced substantial revenue growth and profitability in the preceding three years (2011-2013). During academic year 2012-2013 we had a 12% increase in revenue and increased our staff by nearly 150% since 2009.

WebAssign is one of the oldest EdTech companies in North Carolina. We have a deep commitment to our state and to fostering North Carolina’s national reputation for a strong, high-quality university and college system. In fact, more than 91,000 students in area high schools, universities and community colleges use WebAssign in the state of North Carolina alone.

“It is an honor to be included in the Fast 50 list, which features so many innovative North Carolina companies,” said Alex Bloom, president, WebAssign. “We are proud to call North Carolina, with its rich educational and entrepreneurial community, our home.”

Survey Indicates Preference for Online Testing Among STEM Students

We recently sent out a survey to our student users to assess student learning preferences and overall perception of WebAssign. Over 20,000 students across the STEM disciplines in high school and higher education responded to our survey and provided valuable data regarding the company and education trends.

“Our survey data confirms that WebAssign is an effective tool for students to learn outside the traditional classroom setting,” said Andy Trus, WebAssign product manager. “Over 85% of the surveyed students feel WebAssign positively impacted their exam grades.”

When asked to evaluate an online versus paper preference for testing, students were first asked if they had previously taken an online exam. For respondents who had never taken an online test with WebAssign, only 22.5% indicated a preference for online testing. However, for respondents who had tested with WebAssign, 55% indicated a preference for online testing. The responses show that once a student completes at least one test online, the preference shifts to online testing.

Regarding WebAssign as an effective learning tool:

  • 85% of students said WebAssign positively impacted their exam grades
  • 80% of respondents rated the WebAssign registration process as easy
  • 73% considered WebAssign to be easy to use overall
  • 76.6% stated WebAssign helped them learn the course materials better than any other technology solution

Though the survey focused on student preferences, instructors also benefit from administering online tests with WebAssign for STEM courses. “Using instant grading via WebAssign is superior to a multiple-choice paper test for mass-testing,” commented Lisa Townsley, an academic professional in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Georgia. “WebAssign provides a protected testing environment and enough flexibility to serve the needs of the pre-calculus curriculum at UGA.”

Stay tuned! More results from this student survey will be available on our website throughout the semester.