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Using Web Based Homework In An Introductory Engineering Physics Course

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Web-Based Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1416.1 - 11.1416.12

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Paper Authors


William Schleter University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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Instructor† Engineering Fundamentals Division† University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Mr. Schleter received his BS in Mechanical Engineering and MS in Instructional Technology. He is a registered professional engineer in Tennessee and a full-time instructor in the Engineering Fundamental Division at the University of Tennessee.

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Richard Bennett University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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Professor and Associate Dept. Head† Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering† University of Tennessee, Knoville.

Dr. Bennett received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1983 and has been on the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The University of Tennessee since then. He is a registered professional engineer in Tennessee. He currently has a half-time appointment with the Engineering Fundamentals Division.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using Web-based Homework in an Introductory Engineering Physics Course Abstract

Working homework problems has always been an integral part of an introductory engineering physics class. Traditionally, the homework process has been an inefficient one which involved students writing solutions on paper, turning the papers in, instructors grading the papers, and returning the papers back to the students to provide for feedback and evaluation. This process is very time consuming for a large class, the resulting feedback is generally minimal, and it is difficult to control copying. This paper will discuss the issues, advantages, and disadvantages of a custom web-based homework system designed to replace the traditional paper-based homework system. This custom system implements most features found in other web-based systems such as creation and management of problem libraries, scheduling of assignments, presentation of the problems with randomly assigned parameters for each student, automatic grading, and providing statistics of results. In addition, this system addresses learning issues such as enhanced feedback, interactive help, documentation of the problem solving process, and the evaluation of the use and effectiveness of the system. Documentation and interaction is enhanced by allowing students to include their work in an online calculator/notes box associated with the homework so instructors can view the student’s work on the problem and assist with questions. Interaction and feedback is enhanced with a link directly to a web-based discussion forum which allows students to quickly access questions and answers on the assignment. To encourage homework completion, the system allows for multiple due dates with increasing penalties the later the homework is finished. One of the disadvantages of a web-based system is that it does not typically require students to write out solutions in a clear and logical manner. This issue has been addressed by requiring students to maintain a portfolio of written solutions to all homework problems. Portfolios are periodically checked for completeness and have proven valuable in helping students develop better organization and work habits. Overall, the custom web-based homework system has been in general use since 2003 and has proven itself to be an efficient and effective learning and evaluation tool.


We start first by investigating the issues involved in using a web-based online homework system in a large freshman level engineering physics class. A traditional system of paper based homework is labor intensive, time-consuming, highly dependent upon student motivation and integrity, and historically not very effective. With the proliferation of the availability of internet access and the maturation of tools for providing for personalized instruction and evaluation of every student, the use of an online homework capability seems to be a natural application for a class of this type. This leads to several general questions: What online homework systems are available and what is the theory and history of their development? What issues must be considered when implementing and utilizing such a system? What successes and problems have others encountered when using online homework systems in similar types of classes? What mix of traditional techniques with new tools provides the best results?

Schleter, W., & Bennett, R. (2006, June), Using Web Based Homework In An Introductory Engineering Physics Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois.

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