Webassign weaknesses weigh down studentsMonday, November 08, 2010 By Johnson Beasley
If the words "web" and "assign" do not bring tears to your eyes when put together in a combined, coherent fashion, then I present you with the following argument: Webassign can be an inefficient and unsuccessful task that often does not result in high academic scores and may serve as meaningless practice to some students. Webassign, an online-assignment website, is often used at Broughton in the math and science departments. Although it can serve as a way to practice skills or be an occasional "grade-booster," Webassign often leaves students feeling confused, bewildered and technologically exhausted. I was first introduced to Webassign my sophomore year in my chemistry class. During the year, I thoroughly enjoyed the subject matter and my instructor. Nevertheless, whenever I saw "Webassign #4 due Monday at 7:00 a.m." written on the homework board, my heart sank slightly and my brain began to feel the stress that some Webassigns cause. I tried my best to stay on top of my work load and get my Webassigns done early. Yet, each one seemed to throw some type of curveball. Whether it fell into formatting difficulties, technological deficiencies or unworthy questions, almost every Webassign contained some type of problem. Of course, Webassign does have some validity, and teachers are able to use it as a teaching tool. It does allow teachers and students immediate feedback: students know what problems they got wrong. In addition, teachers are able to use Webassigns as extra practice for students. My problems with this online assignments and assessments are the following: Problem 1: Webassign requires distinct formatting for it to read a "correct" answer. Even if the answer is truly correct, Webassign may read the answer submitted as incorrect. Therefore, the student’s score may be reduced even though his or her answer was accurate. Problem 2: Webassign does not allow partial credit. What student does not enjoy partial credit on a difficult mathematical or procedural problem? In the case of most teachers, partial credit is awarded (to non-multiple choice or true/false questions) when work is clearly displayed and the process is shown. With Webassign, the submitted answer is the only part of the problem that matters. Although the final product may be incorrect, that does not mean that the student’s work was totally wrong. Webassign fails to show students’ methods, and therefore the teacher is not able to help guide a student through his or her mistakes when reviewing the problem. Problem 3: Webassign is used inconsistently throughout the school. Some teachers assign Webassigns periodically, while others choose to give them often yet not make their students aware that they have been assigned. Not only does the frequency of Webassigns prove to be an issue, but the number of submissions can be significantly different from teacher to teacher. For example, one teacher may assign a 10-question (with each question containing multiple questions or responses) Webassign and only allow students 3 submissions for the entire assignment while another teacher may allow 10. Therefore, students taking the same course may experience significant differences in work load and stress because of the teacher; a student with 3 submissions has to work efficiently and effectively, striving to get as many problems right the first time, whereas a student with 10 submissions has more opportunities for correcting errors and mistakes. Nevertheless, Webassigns inevitably seem to cause stress and confusion on the student. And because specific deadlines and technological reliability do not go hand-in-hand, Webassign proves to be more of a problem-causer than a problem-solver.