WebAssign Guide
How to use WebAssign for Ilkka's physics courses at SFSU.

Table of contents:

Getting started:

1.) How to log in
2.) What to do if you can't log in
3.) Initial set-up/configuration
     A.) WebAssign registration
     B.) Set up your password & email
     C.) Set up your Notifications

Doing your homework:

How to submit work
     A.) Submitting vs. saving
     B.) Tracking & accumulating points
     C.) Submitting multi-part questions in pieces
     D.) Extra attempts/extensions
5.) Types of questions
     A.) Numerical
     B.) Multiple Choice/Select
     C.) Essay
6.) Getting help

Other stuff:

HW solutions
8.) Getting points back
9.) Overall grades

Go to www.webassign.net. Click "log in" on the upper right. (I do not use a "class key".)
Try logging in as soon as possible (deadline announced at course orientation). If you can't get in, you will not be able to do your HW or get course materials!
To log in, you need to enter: username, password, institution. These are pre-assigned to you based on information I have on file for you.

Figure out yours using this example:

If your name and Student ID are: Joe Smith, 123456789
then your log-in is:
Username: smith6789
Institution: sfsu
Initial password: 6789

Notes on Username:

Notes on Password:


First, double-check you have followed the above steps correctly.

Then email me ASAP for help (deadline announced at course orientation).

Who might not have an account:

If you've used WebAssign in a past semester:


Once you are successfully logged in, you will need to complete several one-time tasks:

A.) WebAssign registration:
WebAssign is a third-party application, and requires a small fee (~$30) for their services. This fee covers the entire semester for this course. (This is not to be confused with officially registering for the course at SFSU, which is separate.)

Grace period:
You can bypass registration for a few weeks (exact deadline marked in red) and use the system for free with full functionality. After that, you will get locked out until you pay. I cannot make any exceptions to this (I don't have any control over this.) Don't leave it until the last minute in case of issues. This trial period is intended for students who aren't sure they will continue with the course, as the fee is non-refundable.

How to register:

B.) Set up your password & email:
Visit "My Options" (upper right of your screen)

The registrar assigns all students an SFSU email address. It is highly recommended you use this (find out more). This will usually be your default email address already on file with WebAssign. You may choose to instead change this to a more preferred email address. You will receive a confirmation email at this new address to confirm it is valid.

C.) Set up your notifications:
Visit "Notifications"(upper right of your screen, next to "My Options")
Here, you can choose to set email reminders for yourself, including:


From your homescreen, click on the current homework.
You can complete your work in as many sessions at the computer as you like, prior to the HW deadline. When you log back on, the points you earned previously are still there.
Recommended: accumulate points throughout the week, instead of all at once at the end. Do not wait until the last minute!

A.) Submitting vs. saving:
When you click anywhere near/on a given question, the "submit your answer" and "save your progress" buttons will appear below the question.
Always "submit" to get credit. The "save" button is just for you-- it freezes your screen so it's the same when you next log in. "Saved" work is never "submitted" automatically. You must submit work before the HW deadline to get credit.

B.) Tracking & accumulating points:

Once you have correctly submitted a part of a question, a green check mark will appear next to it. (A red "x" will appear if incorrect.)

C.) Submitting multi-part questions in pieces:
You can (and should!) use the "submit" button of a multi-part question to submit just one part of the question. That way you know you are on the right track without committing to using an attempt on all parts. To do this, simply hit the submit button for the question after filling in only some (or even just one) of the fields available.

D.) Extra attempts/extensions:
There will be no individual extensions granted for any reason. Instead, use the "lowest HW dropped" policy wisely to account for extenuating circumstances (see syllabus). If this is not sufficient for complicated multi-week extenuating circumstances, please come discuss with me. The only reason I may give an extension (to the whole class, not individually) is if I fall behind pace for a HW deadline.

There will also be no extra attempts given for any reason, beyond the number allotted in WebAssign. Please pay careful attention the number of attempts given (see types of questions).



Round-off / Decimal Places / Sigfigs:
Keep intermediate calculations and enter in your answers with at least THREE sigfigs.
(What does that mean? Basically, one digit before and two digits after the decimal, when in scientific notation. Example: 3.16 . 10-2)

I am not a stickler about sigfigs, and the system will never penalize you for too many sigfigs either. However, if you round off your answer too much, you may go out of the range of what is considered “close enough” by the system to be marked correct. Three sigfigs will almost always avoid that issue.

While I can generally give points back due to this issue, I am trying to “nip this in the bud”—I hope to save you the aggravation of wondering whether your solution method is wrong or if it is a round-off issue.

Large Numbers:
Do not include commas when entering large numbers. WebAssign does not understand this.
Example:   correct = 12582           incorrect = 12,582

Scientific Notation: WebAssign uses the same format as many calculators.
Example:         this number: 6.23·10-5           should be entered as: 6.23E-5    (no spaces)

          Note: The “E” already stands for “times ten to the power of”, so for example: 10E-6 is actually 10·10-6 NOT 1·10-6 (as you might have intended!)



These are not graded and are generally set to zero points, because WebAssign cannot intelligently grade them. However, they are important questions which you should consider—they will be very relevant for exams. Give them some thought when doing the homework to maximize your learning. Your answer will get locked in when you first enter it. If you are later not satisfied with your response, jot down your preferred answer elsewhere, for comparison with the solution set when it becomes available.


If you are stuck, you have several options:


Viewing the key:
After a HW deadline passes, your past HW's are still available to review, archived under "Past Assignments". You can click on them and view the HW key, which will give your individualized correct answers (based on your individualized givens). This will NOT show how to do the problem, so is really only good for seeing if you can get any points back. If you don't make a habit of checking the key, you might be throwing away points needlessly!

HW solutions:
These are written out by me and will be provided separately. These will be linked from the WebAssign home screen (see Homework Archive link below the announcements) after the HW deadline has passed. When they are available, an announcement will notify you.

Note that my solutions will be based on my own example set of numerical givens. That means my final numerical answers will generally NOT match your own numbers exactly (which are individualized for each student). The idea of these solutions is to show the set-up, techniques, and math used in the problem. Often, side thoughts and other considerations are offered, which you should also take note of.

Practice Button:
For old HW’s, you can log on and practice with different sets of numbers—a “Practice” button should appear on each question once the HW due date passes. If you don’t see it: note this feature may not available at all times—WebAssign sometimes disables it during peak hours.

However, once you have solved the problem the first time, you already know the technique for solving it. It shouldn’t yield further math practice either—ideally, you should already have solved the problem symbolically until the very end anyways. For further practice, you will be better prepared for exams by instead seeking new problems you haven’t tried before. See the Exam Guide for more info on this.


Always check the HW key after the deadline passes. If you feel that a round-off error was the sole reason you were marked wrong, please email me to get points back.


Click on “Grades” on the upper left to find out how you are doing.