# Tips for Using WebAssign

### provided by Donna Krawczyk

• Pay attention to the variable. Students like to use x in every problem. My students thought I would accept anything as long as they had the "correct" answer. They were surprised when I told them that I would mark them wrong on a hand-written homework if they used the wrong variable. Using parameters for the randomized numerical values really helped when we talked about homework problems.

• After two attempts, stop and redo the problem. Common sense goes out the window after two attempts. I've observed many multiple tries where the entries are so radically different you have to wonder what they were thinking. Trial and error takes over and it's a shame because, in many cases, the first attempt was the best.

• Don't enter an equivalent expression when your attempt is marked wrong. If you just entered x*(x+2) and it was wrong, do you really think (x+2)*x will do the trick? I've seen 4 and 5 attempts made with equivalent expressions, all marked wrong. The students prefer to think that the program will only accept the answer in one way rather than the fact that they are just wrong. During the first week, quite a few of my students' emails started with something like "WebAssign won't accept my correct answer, what does it want?" My replies started with something like "the real correct answer". [There are situations that are tricky to ask in an on-line format (for example, different constants of integration. We've tried to minimize the problems with clearer instructions or recommendations.]

• Leaving out parentheses is not the careless mistake you think it is. I would mark that wrong on hand-written homework too. x*(x+2) is not the same as x*x+2. The previewer goes a long way to help them here.

• You just worked out a derivative/integral and your result looks fairly complicated to enter. You have two choices. One choice is to enter that mess and take your chances. I won't accept that as a final answer when the instructions say "simplify your final answer", however. You've just lost out on that practice. That choice will also cost you on the exam. Your second choice is to simplify your answer and then enter that. If your answer is marked wrong, you'll need to determine if your original derivative calculation was wrong or if your simplification was wrong. Checking both is the best practice you can get.

• Trial and error is not an efficient way to answer a problem with a small number of attempts allowed. That particular strategy is useless on an exam, so why rely on it here?

• I can't help you if you don't record your work clearly on paper. If you can't remember what you did to get your answer two days ago, I certainly can't. Well, I probably can, but I wouldn't let them off the hook that easy.

• Not reading the problem carefully has consequences. You've just used up an attempt. But the advantage here is that you find that out immediately instead of two or three days later when you get your graded paper back. Pay attention to the detail.

• Did you struggle with a hand-written assignment but "easily" completed the corresponding WebAssign assignment? This sounds similar to the "I did all the homework just fine, but I can't do your tests". There are connections and finding them is part of the learning process. Can you summarize what you did in this section/assignment? Can you use any of the approaches you used in the WebAssign problems or was the work haphazard?

• If you have an older WebAssign account the following may be relevant to you: When you upload your roster information, WebAssign searches its data base for each student. If it finds a previous account for that student, it will keep the old login and not override it. This could be relevant for any of your students who used a different username format than the one we are using this semester. If they do not remember an old login, they can go to the Contact Us link under the Help link. They should give their fullname, UA email address indicate their institution is 'arizona', and mention the fact that they are on a current WebAssign roster.

• More to be added as we progress........