# WebAssign: A Quick Question

I was reading Teaching College Math and came across a glowing review of WebAssign. (Her great powerpoint here.) Wow! Math help websites have come a long, long way! I was wondering if anyone out there uses it, and if so, what the pros and cons of it are? Are your students satisfied with it, or do they complain about how it works?

Why I’m acute to this: In grad school, I took a few undergrad French and German classes, and we had web assignments too. Unfortunately, although a great idea in theory, those assignments were a nightmare in practice. Missing letters, a different way to say things, a forgotten umlaut or accent, an extra space, etc., would render an entire question wrong. Or you could be completely correct, and you’d still be marked wrong. Everyone hated it. I want to make sure that WebAssign doesn’t have those sorts of annoying bugs. I want to make sure if you write $y=\frac{x-1}{2x-1}$, it would be marked the same as if you had written $y=\frac{1-x}{1-2x}$.

1. Alicia Anderson says:

TCM is one of my favorite blogs. She always has good, creative tips.

Mathematics online is quite different from language assignments online because Mathematics answers don’t really vary (and if they do vary, a simple substitution or other calculation can determine if two answers are equivalent). I think you would be surprised at how smart some of the online systems can be these days with symbolic variables and equivalent forms of algebraic expressions. In some questions, students may still be annoyed by leaving an empty exponent template in an answer, or having a typo in an answer, but the programs themselves are quite symbolically sophisticated; some even use Maple or Mathematica behind the scenes to perform calculations and answer evaluation.

I’d encourage you to seek out demos of the products out there and try them for yourself. As they say, seeing is believing.

(I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention that I work for MyMathLab, but Pearson also has content for its textbooks in WebAssign.)

2. sumidiot says:

While I haven’t used WebAssign, some of my fellow grad students have, and it seems to go pretty well. I’m more familiar with WebWork. That TCM post mentions it, and suggests it is for the more technologically inclined. It doesn’t have a graphical formula entry method, which webassign does. But besides that, I think the two systems are pretty similar.

Webwork is pretty forgiving about the formulas it accepts. In your example about, both answers should be accepted. My understanding is that it checks if a formula is correct by evaluating the formula at a handful of points, and doing the same for the given correct answer, and comparing the values.

3. Mr. Pack says:

I used to use webassign but the students complained about it so much about the fact that unless their syntax is perfect it doesn’t accept it i just stopped using it. My students hated it so much in fact that one homework not a single person in the entire grade did it so me and my staff had to stop using webassign. Also in my opinion if i was the student i would hate it

4. brista says:

Please do not use this program unless your school intends to cover the costs. It is very costly and the fee is in addition to purchasing books and lab manuals and graphing calculators. The subscription fee must be paid every quarter/semester for every single class a student is taking. That adds up, especially for college students who normally don’t have much extra money to spend on anything. It doesn’t seem very ethical to force students to pay for the privilege of turning in homework.

1. mary mcdonald says:

Yes! You couldn’t have been more correct

5. Frustrated Student says:

PLEASE dont inflict webassign upon your students. it is the devil. the reason im on this page is actually because i got SO frustrated with webassign, i googled ‘I HATE WEBASSIGN’ and am looking at the results to make me feel better. this may seem weak emotionally, but iv just had hours of rehearsal and show so…give me a little slack.

honestly though, it depends on how the teacher uses it. i know for me, and everybody at my school, webassign is hell, because none of the chem teachers use any of the helpful components. we get 1 submission, no calendar of due dates and assignments, no indication of why an answer is wrong (teachers can do that w/ their webassigns), if you dont have everything phrased exactly the way your teacher phrased it, you get it wrong, regardless of the accuracy of your answer, and i rarely know when i even have a webassign. plus our teacher doesnt actually teach, so webassign=staying up til 3 each morning w/ our badly-written textbook, attempting to teach ourselves chem. not fun.

HOWEVER, if your a caring teacher who has a loooot of time on your hands, webassign can be a decent experience and easy 100. the negatives, even if you are a good teacher? cheating is made even easier, you have to be on the computer to do it (SO for people like me who dont get home from school til 9:30, it means a looooong evening), there ARE glitches, and the majority of students just really dont like it.

if you DO use it (and i advise against it), one thing: make sure you put in the answer right. there is nothing worse than spending hours trying to solve a stupid chemistry problem, w/o any idea of how to solve it, only to find out the next morning that, oh, you did have the right answer, webassign just had the wrong answer inputted, and you wasted 3 hours of your life, which resulted in you NOT finishing the stupid webassign and getting a 50. D:<

but, yes, i hate it. and my normally honest, moral self is desperately looking for someone to cheat off of because i am so sick of this stupid thing. i dont even care how immoral it is, and how it 'wont help me learn' i just want to get it done, and am currently holding that more important than actually learning. so ill probably fail my test tomorrow. :/

6. Frustrated Student says:

oh ya and the costs- SO STUPID. you have to buy your hw?!?!? honestly, webassign is just a glorified blackboard, and i actually prefer blackboard.

7. texas says:

Webassign is the WORST !!!!!!!!!!!! Do not use this to teach your students and DO NOT take any classes that are using this product. They approached my college and gave us free software and books to use. It sounded like a great deal. Let’s just say it has been a NIGHTMARE!!!!!!!!!!!! We had MyMathlab for the last year which makes this situation even more unbearable. The system is horrible because you get syntex errors and there is no repetition involved so you can actual understand a concept and really learn it. If I had my choice i easily would sent twice the cost to get a system that works!!!!

8. Seth says:

Um…those aren’t the same thing.

9. webassign is awful, buggy software; it constantly crashes, it frequently drops and changes answers to submitted problems and the way that it randomly picks numbers for the math problems often leads to massive and complex fractions –not fun when you are trying to learn calculus.

And don’t believe what people say about there being “only one answer in math”, not true in calculus.

10. Cheyenne says:

I am a student who uses Webassign. Trust me, its absolutely horrible. Even if you enter the CORRECT answer, in the correct FORM as well, it will still sometimes say it can’t understand your answer or your answer is wrong. Trust me, I checked 20 times today to make sure I’m not making some kind of mistake, I entered my answer in all kinds of different ways, being EXTREMELY careful with spacing and every little tiny detail, checking my answer 20+ times to make sure its not a mistake on my part. I payed a lot of money for this and I am absolutely livid right now. DON’T USE WEBASSIGN. PLEASE. I am going to nose dive into the Earth :)))))))))