NC State’s “WebAssign” Online Homework Changing the Classroom

September 15, 2002

Created in 1997 by faculty at NC State, WebAssign is quickly revolutionizing the way math and science courses are taught and the way students learn. The most advanced system of its kind on the Web, the software enables teachers to distribute, collect, grade and record assignments quickly, accurately and automatically over the Internet.

WebAssign software is a textbook or quiz that “talks back.” Teachers can pull from existing textbook questions or write their own. Students answer online, can check answers at any time, and have the opportunity to rework problems until they get them right.

“WebAssign unlocks the door to a new way of teaching – to a classroom without walls where time isn’t a boundary and record-keeping is no longer a burden,” said John Risley, WebAssign director and NC State physics professor. “WebAssign harnesses the power of the Internet and puts it to work for teachers, giving them the freedom to get back to teaching.”

The software also offers a unique feature – it randomizes numbers, offering each student unique questions to solve. This feature makes it virtually impossible to copy another’s work, and very difficult to do assignments right before class.

WebAssign has the flexibility to handle any kind of coursework. Questions can be numerical and algebraic as well as multiple choice, true/false, matching, fill in the blank, short answer, essay or poll. Complex questions using all types of answers can be created. Variables, words and phrases, graphics, and sound and video files can all be randomized.

Starting as a project in NC State’s Physics Education Group in 1997, WebAssign is now used by more than 17,000 students in almost 400 classes at the university.

WebAssign has quickly attained national prominence. More than 65,000 students in more than 150 universities use WebAssign. This includes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina A&T University, East Carolina University, University of Virginia, all United States military academies, Notre Dame, Wake Forest University, University of Wisconsin and University of Washington.

WebAssign also boasts a growing high school market, with 12,000 students.

“WebAssign has taken quality education to the next level by making homework assignments and tests more effective teaching tools,” said NC State Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. “Students are more accountable for their homework and faculty can better manage time spent in the classroom. We’re very excited to see this program expand.”


Sally Ramey


Mick Kulikowski