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- 1. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 1 Student and Teacher Perceptions Of an Online Homework System In the Mathematics Classroom Janelle O’Neill Hunter College
- 2. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 2 Problem and Purpose In a mathematics classroom, a teacher has only a certain amount of time to deliver a lesson and model the process for solving a problem. When the bell rings, a teacher expects that students will revisit the problem solving process and practice with assigned homework problems. Hauk and Segalla (2005) cite homework as important for the advanced cognitive development expected in high school and college math. “College instructors tend to agree that homework is a useful mechanism for deepening student understanding of the material covered in a course, because it gives students practice with concepts and applications” (Doorn, Janssen & O’Brien, 2010) There are, however, inconsistencies between teachers’ homework expectations and student homework completion. First, academic dishonesty can occur when students complete mathematics homework assignments. Students copying math and science homework occurs more frequently than copying during an exam or plagiarizing on a term paper (Hirsch, 2010). Students may not understand that copying homework, especially problems that require an algebraic response, can lead to poor grades on similar problems on a final exam even if the student starts the course with equal ability related to peers (Hirsch, 2010). Second, if a teacher decides to collect written homework assignments, providing timely feedback can be an issue. It is problematic if a student receives feedback from written homework only after having moved on to new material, especially if the new material requires understanding the concept they have yet to receive feedback about (Butler & Zerr, 2005). Also, if homework is not returned in a timely fashion, students may just look at the grade and not at the comments about what they got wrong because the feedback is not pertinent to current material (Baron, 2010). This reaction by students reduces the chance of correcting any misconceptions (Affouf & Walsh, 2007). Lastly, student interactions with mathematics outside of the classroom should include a healthy level of struggle. "Ultimately, math comes easy to no one. It is precisely in the struggle that math
- 3. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 3 offers the most to our youngsters" (Sutton, 1997, p. 43). This struggle is often misinterpreted by students and can result in anxiety. Students need to understand mathematics takes time because students are asked to think in ways which they are not used to thinking (Sutton, 1997). Homework should provide an opportunity for students to grapple with the struggle of learning mathematics alone and unhurried, to foster responsibility and confidence (Sutton, 1997). There is a positive correlation between completing homework and achievement in school, therefore teachers should design homework assignments to address the issues stated above to make math homework count. (Affouf & Walsh, 2007; White, 2007). According to Nguyen, Hsieh and Allen (2006) the 21st century is no longer a “penmanship” century in the United States. Instead of consistently using pencil and paper, many instructors have begun to implement an online homework system into the classroom representing a pedagogical shift in the way homework is designed and assessed. Current research reveals discrepancies among teachers about how to implement an online homework system and its effects on student performance. Studies by Hirsch and Weibel (2003), Zerr (2007), and Affouf and Walsh (2007) reveal a connection between implementing an online homework system and improvement in student performance, whereas Bonham, Beichner, and Deardorff (2001), Hauk & Segella (2005), Demirci (2007) and Lenz (2010) argue that the method of collecting and grading homework makes no significant difference to student performance. These studies mainly explore whether an online homework system is beneficial to student grades. Student and teacher perceptions of an online homework system in the mathematics classroom open the possibility of integrating web-based homework with the current traditional method of paper-based homework to provide additional academic benefits. The term “perception” is used here as an umbrella to encompass the following: student and teacher engagement, attitudes, and beliefs with regards to how the online homework system personally affects the students and teachers.
- 4. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 4 Background Information Brief Overview of the Systems Over the past two decades there has been increasing movement towards the use of computers and the internet in conjunction with many courses across the educational spectrum (Doorn et al., 2010). “One Internet-based accessory to STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] learning gaining popularity in the U.S. is web-based homework” (Hauk & Segalla, 2005, p. 230). Online homework systems provide an electronic platform for teachers to create assignments using the internet and students to complete assignments using a computer. Students and teachers receive feedback from the online system once the assignment is completed. Although each online homework system has similar features, some features on certain programs are unique because each is owned and operated by a different organization. The main online homework systems in current research include Internet-based systems, such as WeBWorK, WebAssign and MyMathLab, and course management systems, such as Blackboard. WeBWorK was created by mathematicians in 1994 and is currently operated by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). There is no cost to departments or institutions who wish to host their own WeBWorK server (Mathematical Association of America, 2013). WeBWorK is an open-source homework generating program in which teachers have access to a National Problem Library for mathematics and science courses, or teachers can create and index their own questions for students (Baron, 2010; Lucas 2012; Mathematical Association of America, 2013). Upon submitting answers, WeBWorK tells the student if their answer is correct, but does not give them the correct answer so students are able to re-try the same question (Hauk & Segalla, 2005; Weibel & Hirsch, 2002). A reported WeBWorK score can reveal the number of questions answered correctly, as well as the number of incorrect attempts at each question (Lucas, 2012).
- 5. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 5 WebAssign is a company that works closely with book publishers and hosts the online homework system on a website which avoids any installation on a computer (Cox & Singer, 2011; Malevich, 2011). WebAssign features a database of more than 100,000 problems and allows teachers to share assignments or sets of questions (Cox & Singer, 2011; WebAssign®, 2013). WebAssign can be integrated with multiple disciplines including accounting, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, geoscience, mathematics, physical science, physics, social studies, and statistics (Malevich, 2011). With a subscription, WebAssign also offers complete technical support by phone or email (WebAssign®, 2013). MyMathLab was developed in 2001, along with MyStatLab and MathXL, to accompany mathematics and statistics textbooks published by Pearson Education (Pearson Education®, 2013). MyMathLab offers online help such that students can view an example similar to the given problem, watch a step-by-step solution to the given problem then try a new question, view pages from the textbook related to the given problem, or email the professor with a link to the given problem (Lenz, 2010). Also, after three unsuccessful tries, MyMathLab automatically generates a new question similar to the one the student just tried to solve (Lenz, 2010). Blackboard is a course management system with online assignment capabilities (Zerr, 2007). Assignments can contain a variety of question types, but no database exists so the instructor must design and classify all questions along with supplying any detailed feedback, such as a complete solution (Zerr, 2007). Advantages and Disadvantages There are perceived advantages and disadvantages for each of the online homework systems described. One advantage of every online homework system is the ability to create and choose questions with a variety of delivery methods. Questions can be multiple choice, choose all that apply true or false, fill in the blank, numerical response, symbolic response, free response and survey
- 6. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 6 questions (Bonham et al., 2001; Lenz, 2010; Titus, 2000; Zerr, 2007). Questions can also include dynamic visuals such as animations, videos and Java applets to manipulate objects and observe a response, along with links to Internet sites to collect data, all of which paper-and-pencil homework cannot (Titus, 2000; Zerr, 2007). Along with the ability to supply diverse question types, a randomizing feature is included with all algorithmically designed numerical questions for the Internet- based systems, such as WeBWorK, WebAssign and MyMathLab. Therefore, students may work together but complete separate assignments, so students must share how to do the problem and not just the final answer (Affouf & Walsh, 2007; Baron, 2010; Bonham et al., 2001; Doorn et al., 2010; Nguyen et al., 2006; Titus, 2000). The algorithmic feature helps to reduce academic dishonesty with homework assignments because students report copying online homework less than written homework (Hirsch, 2010). Another advantage, which supports timely feedback of homework assignments, is the instant and immediate feedback students receive with the automated grading feature of each online homework system. Immediate feedback is effective in reinforcing current concepts and correcting any misconceptions right away before the curriculum continues (Affouf & Walsh, 2007; Baron, 2010; Butler & Zerr, 2005; Cox & Singer, 2011; Doorn et al., 2010; Lenz, 2010; Lucas, 2012; Nguyen et el., 2006; Titus, 2000; Zerr, 2007). In 2012, Lucas assigned WeBWorK questions as a pre-assignment based on a textbook reading assignment in an Introduction to Programing course and Probability & Statistics course. Immediate feedback was especially important because some students lacked experience reading mathematics and the WeBWorK assignment helped to guide their comprehension of the text (Lucas, 2012). Immediate statistics available to teachers can also help plan lessons that meet the needs and progress of a specific class (Baron, 2010; Titus, 2000). Since the online homework system instantly tells students if they got a question right or wrong, it has been shown that students who fail to answer a question correctly tend to reattempt the problem
- 7. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 7 (Baron, 2010). This leads to another advantage of all online homework systems which is the ability to attempt an assignment multiple times. Students learn for their mistakes and are given another opportunity to succeed unlike paper-based homework which only usually allows one submission (Baron, 2010; Bonham et al., 2001; Doorn et al., 2010; Lenz, 2010; Lucas, 2012; Nguyen et al., 2006; Titus, 2000; Zerr, 2007). Zerr (2007) argues that the same attempt-feedback-reattempt sequence that takes place in the classroom can also be simulated using web-based assignments. This process allows students to reflect on their mistakes and retry a similar problem to gain a deep knowledge of the content (Lenz, 2010; Zerr, 2007). However, with any online homework system there can be technical and design disadvantages. If students need a computer, tablet or smartphone to access the online homework system to complete the assigned web-based homework, then technology needs to be available to students (Nguyen et al., 2006; Titus, 2000). Nguyen et al. (2006) reported that one student did not think computer homework could benefit his learning because he did not have computer availability at home. Even though the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (2004) states that “sixty-five percent of all children ages 3 to 17 live in a household with a computer in 2000, up from 55 percent in 1998” (p. 16), 98 percent of public school were connected to the Internet as of the fall of 2000 (p. 13). Even if students have access to the necessary technology, network errors or internet errors can make it impossible to access the online homework system (Doorn et al., 2010; Titus, 2000). After successfully accessing the online homework system, there is a learning curve for both teachers and students (Doorn et al., 2010; Lucas, 2012; Titus, 2000). Teachers must understand how the system works so it can be used as a benefit to students and not a hindrance (Malevich, 2011). Even though teachers can create and share questions across a database, there may be a lack of good questions to choose from, and poor indexing can make it difficult to locate questions relevant to a topic (Baron, 2010; Titus, 2000). Students must learn the appropriate mathematical notation for the online homework system for entering answers, such
- 8. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 8 as where to include parenthesis, how to write a response horizontally like a calculator, and knowing when to use an exact or approximate numerical answer (Affouf & Walsh, 2007; Hauk & Segalla, 2005; Malevich, 2011). Any syntax errors will be scored as incorrect, even if the student had a correct answer on paper. As a design disadvantage, if the online homework system does not provide detailed feedback then students will not find out exactly where they went wrong, and it is just as if they looked in the back of the book for an answer (Bonham et al., 2001; Lenz, 2010; Titus, 2000). From a teacher perspective, with web-based homework it is hard to determine the work students put into solving each problem (Titus, 2000). With automated grading, more emphasis is put on the final answer rather than understanding the process to reach the final answer, and the chance to have multiple attempts may make students used to a guess-and-check approach instead of initially trying to think through to solve the problem (Bonham et al., 2001; Hauk & Segalla, 2005; Lenz, 2010). However, in a study by Bonham et al. (2001) many students reported completing the web-based homework on paper, then using the computer to check their work. Collecting student written work, and grading at least one of the problems in detail, could help reinforce certain problem solving traits emphasized in class and on paper-based exams where students are required to show work (Lenz, 2010; Malevich, 2001; Titus, 2000). This would also allow teachers to retain written communication with students, analyze the students’ methodology to gain insight into their comprehension, and provide more detailed feedback (Hauk & Segalla, 2005; Lenz, 2010) Also, if students do not keep track of the web-based homework questions by writing down the problem and process, they will be unable to use the assignment to study for a quiz or test (Lenz, 2010; Malevich, 2011). There is also some debate on whether an online homework system can be developed to grade more advanced, open-ended proofs and responses, rather than only numerical or symbolic based questions, which are necessary in high level mathematics courses (Malevich, 2011). Currently, online
- 9. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 9 homework systems are limited in the types of questions that can be assigned, and it is not possible to automatically grade essay questions or questions which require an explanation from the student (Lenz, 2010). Literature Review Student Perceptions Engagement. When an online homework system becomes part of a student’s out of class assignments, students attempt more problems. In a study by Hirsch and Weibel (2003), 807 students in a college calculus course, which excluded engineering, physics, chemistry and mathematics majors, whom were assigned WeBWorK homework, produced a strong, positive correlation of r = 0.944 between attempts on a problem and percentage of problems solved. This significant connection reveals that once a student began a problem they persisted until they had solved it. This statistic is also an indicator of effort and engagement with the program because in an analysis of variance only 9% of the variability in WeBWorK scores could be attributed to prior skill level (Hirsch & Weibel, 2003). Zerr (2007) measured student engagement by the percentage of almost perfect online homework, and 65% of the grades earned by the 27 college calculus students were higher than 90%. If students were not retaking the assignment then the grades would appear more normally distributed, therefore students were actively participating in the online homework system (Butler & Zerr, 2005; Zerr, 2007). This data suggest that providing students with multiple opportunities to attempt a problem encourages students to spend more time with the program to attain a higher level of achievement (Nguyen et al., 2006). Lenz (2010) saw similar results of students attempting more problems after a 5 semester study of 191 students enrolled in a Finite Mathematics course. Students enrolled in the web-based section attempted 88% of the online assignments, where only 80% of students enrolled in the paper-based section attempted the written assignments. Students enrolled in a section which used both web-based
- 10. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 10 and paper-based assignments attempted 84% of the web-based assignments and only 73% of the paper- based assignments. Both of these differences were significant and show student engagement with the online homework system more than the written homework (Lenz, 2010). In some studies, there is a discrepancy in the length of time students spend on web-based verse paper-based assignments. In a study by Cox and Singer (2011) of 87 students enrolled in a college calculus course using WebAssign, 48 out of 87 students (approximately 55 percent) reported spending one hour or less on web-based assignments, but only 26 of 87 students (approximately 30 percent) reported spending one hour or less on paper-based assignments. Students spent more time completing paper-based homework. Additionally, Doorn et al. (2010) reports students either spending less time on web-based homework (44.1 percent), or students perceive no difference in the time it takes to complete web-based verse paper-based homework (43.5 percent). Conversely, both Bonham et al. (2001) and Demirci (2007) report physics students spending more time completing web-based homework. For Bonham et al. (2001), students in the web-based homework section for calculus-based physics report spending 3.3 hours per week on homework, whereas students in the paper-based homework section spent 2.4 hours per week on homework. Students in the web-based homework section for algebra-based physics reported spending 4.4 hours per week on homework, whereas students in the paper-based homework section spent 3.4 hours per week on homework (Bonham et al., 2001). These differences are statistically significant with on a two-tailed t-test (mean and standard deviation not reported). In the study by Demirci (2007), a 21-question survey was administered to 103 students in a general physics course about their perceptions of online verse paper based homework. Of 56 students enrolled in the web-based section, only 16 (28.6 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that they send less time when doing homework online. Of 46 students in the paper-based section, 26 (55.3 percent) disagree or strongly disagree that they spend more time when doing paper and pencil homework with groups (Demirci, 2007). In a study of
- 11. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 11 358 students enrolled in a college algebra class, Hauk and Segalla (2005) reported the frustration of about 10% of students over spending more time on web-based assignments than paper-based assignments in previous courses because of the possibility of multiple attempts. Attitude. In many different studies, students expressed a positive level of satisfaction with the online homework system. Zerr (2007) analyzed a student survey about Blackboard with a Likert scale of 1 representing a student strongly agrees, 2 representing a student agrees, 3 representing a student is neutral, 4 representing a student disagrees, and 5 representing a student strongly disagrees. The question “The online homework system provided a worthwhile addition to this course” received a 1.16 average. Doorn et al. (2010) completed a study in which 687 students enrolled in an economics course, ranging from introductory to advanced sections, completed a survey after a semester’s experience with an online homework system. “Overwhelmingly, 85.4 percent of the students surveyed responded that graded homework is useful in learning the material, while less than 1 percent considered assigned homework useless” (Doorn et al., 2010, p. 8). In the Bonham et al. (2001) calculus-based physics course using WebAssign, approximately 60% of students indicated they would like to continue using the online homework system. Lucas (2012) reported that 10 of 12 students in an Introduction to Programming course preferred having WeBWorK questions rather than no WeBWorK questions by the end of the semester. With Lenz (2010), 87.5% of the students in the web-based section and 69.2% of the students in the web-and- paper-based section responded that they liked using the MyMathLab web-based homework for the course. Additionally, 79.17% of the students in the web-based section and 57.69% of the students in the web-and-paper-based section would prefer to take the course with web-based homework. Students in the combination course may have recognized the benefits of receiving more detailed, individualized feedback on the paper-based assignments resulting in a lower percentage (Lenz, 2010).
- 12. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 12 Other features students enjoyed were being allowed multiple attempts to submit answers to the problems, the ability to complete the web-based homework at any time of day, and receiving instant feedback on whether their answers were right or wrong (Affouf & Walsh, 2007; Butler & Zerr, 2005; Cox & Singer, 2011; Demirci, 2007; Doorn et al., 2010; Lenz, 2010; Zerr, 2007). Demirci (2007) found that 21.4% agreed and 64.3% strongly agreed that instant feedback motivated the student. While most of the studies reveal overwhelming student support for the use of online homework systems, some students expressed reservations that there was no partial credit for web-based assignments (Affouf & Walsh, 2007). Other students developed a negative attitude towards the online homework system due to complications and technical difficulties in the first few weeks of the course (Bonham et al., 2001). Dimirci (2007) found that 35.7% of students agreed or strongly agreed with having some difficulty accessing a computer and/or the Internet to complete the homework online, however 57.1% reported disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with this statement. Beliefs. Once students experienced an online homework system, they developed ideas about how the encounter affected their learning of mathematics. There was a discrepancy in the way students perceived whether the online homework system prepared them for an in-class exam. In a college calculus course using WebAssign, students thought paper-based homework better prepared them for course exams (Cox & Singer, 2011). However, in another college calculus course, Zerr (2007) used the same Likert scale previously described and found students responded favorably with a 1.53 average when answering the statement “Homework provided adequate preparation for the exam/quiz”. Demirci (2007) found that 57.1% of students agreed or strongly agreed that web-based homework prepared them for exams in physics, and Doorn et al. (2010) found that 71.2% of students agreed or strongly agreed that web-based homework prepared them for exams in economics.
- 13. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 13 Another belief shared by many students is that other courses should adopt an online homework system. Zerr (2007) found that students overwhelmingly agreed with the statement “I would like to see a similar online homework system adopted in other math courses” because it received a 1.05 average with the Likert scale. Demirci (2007) reported that 64.2% of students agreed or strongly agreed that they want other teachers and courses to use a similar online homework system, though the online homework system used was not explicitly described in the study. Concerning the user interface of the online homework systems, Demirci (2007) stated that 64.3% strongly agreed, 32.1 % agreed, 3.6% had no opinion, and 0% disagreed or strongly disagreed that the online assessment and its directions were easy to use and read on the computer screen, and the online homework system was user friendly. Interview results from Nguyen et al. (2006) showed that 41 seventh grade students thought the activities on the computer were easy to read because they incorporated tables and charts and were full of color. Hauk and Segalla (2005) analyzed a student survey about WeBWorK with a Likert scale with 1 representing a student strongly disagrees, 2 representing a student disagrees, 3 representing a student is neutral, 4 representing a student agrees, and 5 representing a student strongly agrees. Survey responses from 358 students enrolled in a college algebra class revealed a score of 3.1 for the question “in general I found the WeBWorK program user- friendly” (Hauk & Segalla, 2005, p. 240). Lastly, 96.4% of students in a web-based section agreed or strongly agreed that doing homework online is a modern approach to traditional paper-based homework, while 63.8% of students taking paper-based homework also agreed or strongly agreed to this statement (Demirci, 2007). Teacher Perceptions Teacher reactions to implementing an online homework system show a varying degree of satisfaction. Hauk and Segalla (2005) found that teachers who reported seeing little positive value in
- 14. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 14 using an online homework system, had a majority of students who commented that web-based homework was “useless”, they “hated it” or found it “a colossal waste of time” (Hauk & Segalla, 2005, p. 244) Other teachers expressed initial reservations, but grew to appreciate the versatility and flexibility of the online homework system (Cox & Singer, 2011). A teacher stated that he is able to have more valuable teaching moments with students because when he sees the answer a student typed in, he can almost always recognize the error in the mathematical thinking and therefore can begin his next lesson correcting the misconception (Baron, 2010). In studies by Butler and Zerr (2005) and Lucas (2012), instructors report students being more prepared for class, and Cox and Singer (2011) state that teachers noticed students were motivated to work on web-based assignments, where the same students may have given up quickly on paper-based assignments. Hauk and Segalla (2005) also reported that teachers who found the online homework system valuable had students who described it as helpful in their endeavors. There is a reported discrepancy in the amount of time teachers devote to homework problems. Reports say that by implementing an online homework system teachers can spend less time grading assignments and more time in office hours, designing new lecture material, or grading projects and essays (Bonham et al., 2001; Doorn et al., 2010; Hauk & Segalla, 2005; Titus, 2000). Teachers also affirm that they like not having to always correct homework exercises or spend large portions of class time reviewing homework problems (Affouf & Walsh, 2007). However, another report says teachers could spend more time answering student questions through emails, which could be more time consuming and frustrating than some articles indicate (Malevich, 2011). It can also be hard to explain where a student went wrong with a web-based problem over email (Malevich, 2011). Overall, despite some reservations about online homework systems, the immediate feedback and statistical data reported to teachers can help earlier identify weaker students in case an intervention is necessary (Lucas, 2012).
- 15. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 15 Discussion Advancements in technology have led to new methods of student assessment (Demirci, 2007). Given that the research has shown student and teacher perceptions of web-based homework assignments to be relatively positive, an online homework system may be a viable addition to traditional paper and pencil homework (Demirci, 2007). Cox and Singer (2011) reported that completing online homework did not place students at a disadvantage, and many other studies attest that there is no significant difference in performance between students completing web-based homework versus paper-based homework (Bonham et al., 2001; Hauk & Segella, 2005; Demirci, 2007; Lenz, 2010). Butler and Zerr (2005) collectively summarize student comments and feedback from a calculus course by quoting: The online element of this class was crucial in my understanding of material and preparation for examinations. Between the ease of use, instant feedback, and ability to redo assignments, I cannot imagine taking the course in any other way. It’s definitely the way to do it. (Butler & Zerr, 2005, p. 56) Integrating an online homework system can help students develop self-awareness, self-efficacy, self- motivation and self-confidence (Nguyen et al., 2006). Sutton (1997) states that life will naturally present students with struggles, and they must learn there is no quick fix; mathematics offers students an opportunity to work through the struggle by using what they know to find things they need. With an online homework system: Such an attempt-feedback-reattempt feature also conveys to students that it is acceptable (and sometimes even expected) to make mistakes as they are learning mathematics, leading to greater confidence later since they will not automatically be discouraged in the future by a problem they cannot immediately solve." (Zerr, 2007, p. 61)
- 16. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 16 Because self-motivated students are likely to do well under any circumstances, an online homework system would likely pay the greatest dividends to lower-performing students who are engaged in the program outside of class (Zerr, 2007). Unfortunately, many researchers approached the integration of an online homework system as an either-or scenario; students either did web-based homework or paper-based homework (Malevich, 2011). However, the design of online homework systems, along with positive student and teacher perceptions of web-based homework, opens the possibility of integrating web-based homework with traditional paper-based homework to provide additional academic benefits. Lenz (2010) argues that a combination of web-based and paper-based homework produced suboptimal results. Lenz (2010) designed the hybrid section to receive two assignments at the end of each class that were to be completed before the next class meeting. The number of problems was evenly split between web-based and paper-based questions and did not exceed the number of questions assigned to the solely web- based and solely paper-based sections (Lenz, 2010). Students felt that the homework burden was heavier when receiving assignments in two different formats even though the total number of problems was unchanged, and students would either only attempt homework in one format or only complete one assignment per class meeting (Lenz, 2010). Lenz (2010) also reports that students in the combination homework section finished the semester with lower final grades compared to the strictly web-based or paper-based sections. However, a teacher in a study by Hauk and Segalla (2005) implemented a modification to the above design that could optimize the use of both web-based and paper-based homework in a course since her web-based section students had the highest average gain from a pre- to post-test: The benefit of delegating the masses of skill practice for which PPH [paper-and-pencil homework] is viewed useful to a web-based interface is that it frees up instructor time and
- 17. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 17 allows instructors choice in the nature of written interaction with students. (Hauk & Segalla, 2005, p. 248) A hybrid system would allow teachers to delegate assignments to better manage in-class time with students, and out-of-class time for students. Hauk and Segalla (2005) suggest that teacher’s formative and summative assessments can be chosen to more thoroughly examine a student’s problem solving methodology to determine if the student conceptually understands the course content. Assignments that challenge students conceptually can help give context to the skills acquired through an online homework system (Hauk & Segalla, 2005). Hauk and Segalla (2005) also state that web-based homework is by no means a replacement for interactions between a student and teachers, or a student and their peers. Given that the research has shown student and teacher perceptions of web-based homework assignments to be relatively positive, and Doorn et al. (2010) argue that online homework is here to stay, students could reap the benefits of a well-designed hybrid system which meets the needs of the course. Consequently, there needs to be more exposure and more studies completed at the high school level given that the current research has mainly focused on college level courses. Doorn et al. (2010) found that only 16% of students in the study had taken an online quiz or test in high school, and only 19.9% had any previous experience submitting answers with an online system. This drastically contrasts the 78% and 84.3% of respective students having these same experiences in a college course (Doorn et al., 2010). With every available tool there is potential for it to be used effectively or ineffectively (Titus, 2000). Therefore, recommendations also include conducting workshops to teach faculty and students about the online homework system; the Mathematical Association of America currently provides professional development for WeBWorK (Baron, 2010). Instructors need to understand how the online homework system works so it can be used as a benefit to students and not a hindrance (Hauk &
- 18. PERCEPTIONS OF AN ONLINE HOMEWORK SYSTEM O’Neill, 18 Segalla, 2005; Malevich, 2011). Also, if schools supply computer lab access for students, they should find a way to have mentors or tutors available while students are working on online homework assignments (Butler & Zerr, 2005). Mentors or tutors could help debug any syntax errors, which could alleviate emails to instructors. To meet the demands of the current technological era, online homework systems are continuously developed and adjusted to improve features and capabilities, therefore another recommendation includes having teachers develop a relationship with a computer programmer, or the online system provider (Hauk & Segalla, 2005; Malevich, 2011; Nguyen et al., 2006). Teachers can provide feedback to the online system provider and work closely with computer programmers to make sure the online homework system satisfies the expectations a teachers has for students when completing homework online (Malevich, 2011). Summary Introducing and including an online homework system into the current mathematical curriculum satisfies many societal and educational goals of further incorporating technology into the classroom. Every online homework system has unique features available to teachers and student, but each contains common advantages such as universal question banks, randomized question development, instant feedback to students, and multiple submission attempts. Common disadvantages include technical or syntax errors, a learning curve for teachers and students, developing a guess-and- check mentality, and the unavailability to recognize if students have a conceptual understanding of the material. Overall, students showed engagement, a positive attitude, and practical beliefs towards the online homework system. Therefore, the design of an online homework system, along with positive student and teacher perceptions of web-based homework, opens the possibility of a hybrid program in which web-based homework integrated with traditional paper-based homework can provide additional academic benefits.
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