Students have been doing homework in classes since the dawn of education. It’s a way for students to work through the types of problems presented in class on their own, and train their mind to recognize and apply a technique.
Digital homework, in contrast to quizzes, is a way students can try the same single problem on assessment multiple times, without restarting the entire assessment. This means a student can quickly retry a solution in a “Oh right I forgot to carry the 2” moment. Perhaps there’s a an incentive to get it right the first time, but either way the student has the opportunity to reflect on their answer and try again. This could even mean the student tries a problem, then attends class to learn the proper procedure, then try again. Homework options are available in many online assessment platforms, such as MyOpenMath, with various levels of customizations.
A major failing of traditional homework is the student will check their own work against the solution. This means that regardless of whether they are correct, or not, they now have the correct answer. In a typical Back Of the Book (BOB) solution lookup, they may also believe they knew the answer or glance at subsequent solutions (True story; I used to think Bob was our Teaching Assistant). And if they get too many questions wrong there may be little to no other practice available depending on the number of questions presented in the textbook.
Online quizzes require students to complete the entire assignment before learning if their answer is correct or not, and gives them no opportunity to correct their mistake before seeing the solution. This also means considerable time between finishing a problem and getting feedback, with possibly many other questions in between, meaning any train of thought or spark of an alternative solution will be extinguished.
In contrast to traditional homework, digital homework would simply inform the student that their answer is incorrect, and let them review the steps and work they did, before trying again. In addition, the student could be presented with hints and reminders for typical mistakes to nudge them in the right direction or seek guidance from the instructor. Then if the student does end up giving up and looking at the answer, the question can quickly be regenerated with new numbers, or even a new problem altogether, and the student can try again.
Since the work can be tracked and automatically graded, students can also receive course credit for doing their homework. The goal of homework is to get every problem correct, with extensive support and guidance, so an individual homework assignment won’t necessarily be a large portion of the overall grade. But with the regularity of weekly assignment the numerous small homeworks can make up a large fraction of their final grade. In addition, with each homework comprising around 20 individual questions, or parts, students will be practicing and demonstrating their knowledge on over 200 questions in a semester.
Using regular homework would also mean that the frequency and overall value of tests could be reduced in the course. Test questions could be pulled, or modelled, on the homework problems to further incentivize the proper usage of the homework by students. Depending on the effectiveness of the homework a clause stating “you must pass the tests for the homework to be included in the overall grade” could be included in the course outline, but rarely is this really needed.
Digital homework might be just the tool for your class to shift some of the grades to learning and engagement. You can give better and faster feedback, and provide just the feedback students need — try again. If your assessment platform doesn’t already support digital homework, check out MyOpenMath.