November 14, 2010 by staff 

Webassign, For Physics 208 at NC State used WebAssign, an application where students meet online homework problems. WebAssign has partnered with numerous publishing companies, so problem ’7 -10 ‘in the manual match WebAssign ’7 -10′. Specifically designed for mathematics and introductory science courses, WebAssign changes randomly in the number of problems, ranging from the definitive answer to discourage cheating.

The advantages are obvious. Long ago, some overworked teacher had the idea of delegating duties ranking for graduate students. Now that the task may be abhorrent to move a machine. The organization saves money, graduate students are now freed up for research assistantships (assuming said the money saved translates into additional research funds). And “teachers have more opportunities engage students in learning, “according to the promo video for WebAssign.

The benefits of WebAssign are clear, but I’m skeptical about its educational benefit to students. Here are my specific concerns:

The note does professors HW. How does the teacher know the material is absorbed if it closes the HW? So he can see the notes of all its students, the teacher can not see where a student got lost on a particular problem and address this knowledge gap if it is systemic. Maybe WebAssign can generate a list of the most missed. But the thought process of students is something that can not collect WebAssign.
WebAssign encourages guessing. Teachers specify how many “presentations” that you get. My instructor gave us 3 presentations per question, so a homework problem set 10 allow up to 30 guesses. This means that if I right the first 9 on the first try, I have 21 chances to answer the last question. And when all else fails immediately guessing is not a waste of time, as WebAssign has a variety percent default for numeric answers to allow rounding errors. If lucky, I can receive full credit, with WebAssign and, by extension, the teacher assuming I understand the matter. Since I already received my points, I may neglect to follow up assistance, while the embarrassment of presenting a half-filled (paper) assignment would lead me to ask for help.
WebAssign requires a computer. Honestly, I considered it a major problem before I bought my first laptop. I enjoy a quiet working environment, and most college computer labs are anything but. Now that I’ve come a little farther in the assimilation * millennial generation, I realize this is one that will be reduced over time.
Completed HW is not conducive to study. For engineering courses to solve problems and math, students study the issues, not lecture notes. But most students do not print their mission WebAssign, as no room is provided to work on problems. WebAssign should provide a printed version with a sufficient working space. Students can then make their calculations and reference for future tests.
WebAssign costs money. WebAssign is mandatory for applicable courses, is still charged to the card. I understand that WebAssign needs money to operate, but the additional burden instead of rolling in tuition is a way to stay in the shade of black. For the phrase the point another way, NCSU is charging students extra money to put in HW. When the tests began to be administered online have PayPal and me 5 for the right to take my last?
Again, the benefit WebAssign provides institutions is not involved, I question the students have received. As a non-traditional student I understand that the mine may be a minority report. Yet, as more technology is implemented in classrooms, online “teaching aids” could become a gap between teacher and student.

We’re all going through the pain more information on the age of colleges are not exempt. But in their desire to appear flashy or cutting edge technology, traditional universities may hasten their own death by making the institutions of brick and mortar ineffective and therefore irrelevant. Mr. Bassett brought to our attention the problems the newspaper industry is having. Could this be a harbinger of the industry that universities can expect? Both industries pay people to do professional work, journalism and research and both are undercut by online bloggers, replacements and lower paid teachers or video conferences. While I am a blogger, I write comments on idiosyncratic and not the news. I believe in the principle of division of labor (one point) and therefore thought to professionals-including journalists. So when I try to imagine a world without journalists paid, I do not see bloggers totally replace the traditional role of journalist. When I try to imagine a world without public research universities, I do not think that’s an improvement, I see private companies take over. Perfect if you’re a chemical engineer or a pharmaceutical major, depressing if you’re liberal arts major.

While 150 + years, I believe that Thoreau in Walden understood the real difference between colleges of bricks and mortar and online:

Things for which more money is sought are never the things that the student most wants. Tuition, for example, is an important element in the term bill, while for education much more value he gets by associating with the most cultivated of his contemporaries no charge is made.

* Millenialists (not the Bible variety) are the generation born after 1980, putting me about them and Generation X.

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