End of an Era

Physics department switches from WebAssign to Expert TA


Shruthi Nyshadham, Staff Writer

Ask any Jefferson student to recall junior year, and one memory will likely jump out every time: WebAssign. The infamous physics homework platform has become somewhat synonymous with junior year, but its seven-year reign came to an end when the physics department transitioned to a new product called Expert TA this year.

Issues arose with WebAssign after Cengage bought the company in 2016 and wanted to charge Jefferson physics the official high school rate for the product.

“For a long time, we were paying a very discounted rate [of] a little over ten dollars per student,” Jefferson physics teacher Dr. Adam Smith said. “That was never on paper, wasn’t documented, and was very much outside their normal way of doing business.”

Cengage refused to uphold the unofficial deal and price that the physics department had with WebAssign before the acquisition. The increase in cost frustrated Jefferson physics teachers, as did the poor customer support they experienced with Cengage’s WebAssign. Upon discovering Expert TA at the Washington, D.C. meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the department was ready to switch.

“We found a vendor called Expert TA that seemed an improvement over WebAssign in terms of feedback from students, videos, and tutorials,” Jefferson physics teacher Steve Scholla said. “[Expert TA] was also more friendly in terms of cost on a per student basis.”

The potential impact of the change won’t be clear until classes start using Expert TA in earnest, but students feel that the culture built around WebAssign will endure.

“I definitely think [the name] WebAssign will stick for my year,” senior and AP Physics student Amrit Gorle said. “It flows better, and we are used to calling the problem sets that.”