If you’re like me, you’ve had a few thoughts that go like this… students will only learn if they do their homework, students will only do their homework if it’s graded, I can’t possibly grade enough homework to make them do it on a regular basis.

If you haven’t tried it, you’ve got to try online homework. Many of the products these days have algorithmically-generated problems that directly correspond to problems in the book. This means that a) all the students get different numbers, but the same type of problem, b) they use the same verbage as your text.

In the first week of class, I estimate that my students (75 students in four classes) did approximately 2400 graded problems. No kidding. They received instant feedback on the problems, they had the opportunity to try the problem again if it was incorrect (they get 5 tries… my setting), and most worked at each problem until they did get it right. Students can post questions and answer others’ questions on the message boards, but cannot just ask for an answer (since they all have different numbers).

Even if you collect and grade every problem that you assign, you surely see homework papers where students just abandon problems that they know are unfinished or incorrect.

I call this “must get full points” characteristic of our online homework students, the “video-game mentality.” If there are points to be collected, and they can see instantly that they either have or have not collected the points, they will continue trying until a) they get the points, or b) they run out of time.

The video-game mentality is so powerful, that several students have done all the homework in the whole chapter already! I have never seen a student do that in a regular class. For those naysayers that say that today’s students don’t learn any differently than students a hundred years ago… I dare you to try online homework and then tell me that they don’t learn differently.

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