The Switch from Expert TA back to WebAssign

The Jefferson physics department readopts the computer-based homework program WebAssign after using ExpertTA last year


“Compared with Mathspace which allows you to submit your answer in steps and will check and tell you if you’re on the right track, it’d be nice if WebAssign could do that,” junior Eban Ebssa said, working on her Physics 1 WebAssign homework.

Srilakshmi Medarametla, Staff Writer

A shift in Jefferson’s physics classes, this year marked the comeback of the computer-based assigned-homework program WebAssign from last year’s newcomer Expert TA. 

“The primary reason that we left WebAssign two years ago was that they tripled their price per student, from $5 to $15” Jefferson physics teacher Stephen Scholla said. 

Following this, Jefferson’s physics teachers looked for new programs to assign physics homework. They soon found the new program ExpertTA, and when placed in contrast with WebAssign’s high prices, they decided to go with it for the 2018-19 school year.

Photo Credits:
ExpertTA Interface
WebAssign Interface

“Both programs tend to provide good practice for the tests. I prefer ExpertTA because it would provide useful feedback if I forgot a coefficient or I was off by a factor of ten, wrong signs, etc. WebAssign gives extremely generic feedback and is less helpful for me when studying since the hints are always the same,” senior Antonio Martin said.

While Jefferson students may have appreciated Expert TA for its helpful feedback, physics teachers ultimately decided to switch back to WebAssign this school year.

“After having it for a year, we found that the depth of the database of problems was not sufficiently large for what we need here. The rigor of the problems wasn’t as good as there were more mistakes and in the answer keys, and the interface with the user was a little more awkward,” Scholla said.

Ultimately, the physics department decided that the value of WebAssign’s physics problems was worth its cost to maintain the challenge and rigor of the class.

“As a physics major in college, I attended my first tests without doing most of the homework. It was a complete disaster. After that, I learned to do all the problems that are assigned, go back and try to self-evaluate and see what it was that I did wrong and where my mistakes were. The reason we assign this homework is for students to have adequate practice in the content area that we’re teaching,” Scholla said.