How to Respond to Student Emails

WeBWorK makes it convenient for students to email whenever they get stuck. Some students will take advantage of this capability.

  • In a large class without a lead TA, it may be impractical for an instructor to answer emails about anything other than technical issues. Students should be encouraged to visit office hours, TAs, or the Calculus Room (for MAT 16) for help.
  • If teaching a small class or lead TAing a large class, it may be possible to help students with basic mathematical issues by email. However, unless one responds judiciously, some students may get in the habit of emailing for help every time they get a problem wrong. This is not a good habit to foster. Giving students a few hours to think on their own before responding to their emails can help mitigate this issue.
  • Emails which students send through the WeBWorK system usually come with a link to the problem they are stuck on. Clicking this link will take the instructor or TA to the student's version of the problem. The instructor or TA can also see the correct version of the problem as well as any answers the student may have already submitted. These may or may not help in finding any errors the student has made.
  • Some students will send laconic emails asking why their answer is wrong, or asserting that their answer must be correct and the problem must have an error. These emails can be difficult to respond to. Encourage students to explain their reasoning when asking for help; if students provide explanations of how they got their answers, it can be much easier to find their mistakes.
  • If a student's answer has been marked as incorrect, before trying to understand the student's thought process it might make sense to check that WeBWorK has the correct answer. Click “Show correct answers”, then “Check Answers” to see the correct answer. Check that you agree with this answer before spending time trying to find a mistake in the student's reasoning.
dealing_with_student_email/how_to_respond_to_student_emails.txt · Last modified: 2011/06/19 03:08 by rthomas
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