List of features
- Individualized version of the problem for each student.
- Immediate feedback as to whether the answer is correct.
- Each homework assignment is available as a typeset, downloadable PDF file.
- Students can use any computer and browser combination which can access a web page.
- The instructor can find out current progress of class in correctly completing the homework.
- The instructor can use any computer and browser for management of the assignment.
- There is an easy mechanism by which the instructor can view the same version of the problem as an individual student. This makes it much easier to answer questions via e-mail.
- Any Unix or Unix-like operating system can host WeBWorK.
- Grading assignments is fast and is easily integrated with spreadsheet programs such as Excel.
- Procedures are provided to easily send e-mail to an entire class reporting individual homework grades, exam grades etc.
- In general, WeBWorK and CAPA promote "mastery" of the material, since the students cannot mislead themselves into thinking they understand a problem until the computer accepts their answer. Without WeBWorK most students will make a calculation, get an answer, and forget about the problem until, under the best circumstances, their homework is graded and returned a week later. To paraphrase the words of Tom Lehrer, with WeBWorK "it is important to understand what you are doing AND to get the right answer."
- Every problem has a "Feedback" button which sends an e-mail message directly to the instructor. Students use this to communicate with the instructor in many ways; from reporting spelling errors on the homework pages, to asking for help when they think they have the right answer, but WeBWorK won't accept it (sometimes the instructor has programmed in the wrong answer for some versions of the problem), to setting up a meeting time with the instructor or TA to get additional help because now they realize that they didn't understand a concept which they thought they had understood.
In our experience e-mail has a definite personalizing affect rather than a de-personalizing one, and WeBWorK's encouragement of this additional channel of communication has been one of the serendipitous advantages of the system.
At the price of spending an hour at 11PM the evening the problems are due, an instructor, working from home, can answer a good many simple questions which, unanswered, would have prevented the students from completing their homework. In this way WeBWorK and web technology allows one to reach students at "teachable" moments, with only moderate inconvenience to the instructor. After the due date, students can review the homework, including the answers expected by the instructor.