List of features

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This article has been retained as a historical document. It is not up-to-date and the formatting may be lacking. Use the information herein with caution.

There were two features lists on the old UR WeBWorK site and I have not yet merged them. I have cleaned them up a little, however. — Sam 02:46, 1 March 2008 (EST)

List of features #1

  • 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.

List of features #2

WeBWorK is an Internet-based system for generating and delivering homework problems to students. Its goal is to make homework more effective and efficient. It increases the effectiveness of traditional homework as a learning tool by:

  • Providing students with immediate feedback on the validity of their answers and giving students the opportunity to correct mistakes while they are still thinking about the problem. As one student said, "I can fix my mistakes while [the] problem is fresh in my mind."
  • Providing students with individualized versions of problems means that instructors can encourage students to work together, while still requiring that each student develop an answer to his or her own version of the problem.

It increases the efficiency of traditional homework by:

  • Providing automatic grading of assignments.
  • Providing information on the performance of individual students and the course (or section or recitation) as a whole.

Below is information on some of the main features of WeBWorK:

  • Advanced mathematics problems can be authored, displayed and printed with typeset quality. WeBWorK can handle most standard homework problems assigned in calculus, vector calculus, and differential equations courses. WeBWorK comes with a Rochester library of over 2500 problems covering pre-calculus, first year calculus, vector calculus, differential equations, probability, and statistics. Professors can easily write their own problems (or edit library problems) and in fact several colleges, universities, and high schools are distributing their own libraries of problems. WeBWorK is currently in use by more than 100 colleges, universities, and high schools.
  • WeBWorK produces similar but individualized problems for each student. This makes WeBWorK particularly effective in a group learning setting, since students can collaborate without copying.WeBWorK remembers each student's problems, so they can connect to WeBWorK, attempt a problem, receive immediate feedback about the validity of their answers, try again or logout and give the problem more thought if necessary, and then reconnect to WeBWorK to attempt their own individualized problem again. Students can attempt a problem as many times as they wish until the due date unless the instructor desires to place a limit on the number of allowed attempts. Each problem in a set can have a different limit on the number of allowed attempts. For example, instructors may wish to limit the number of attempts on True/False questions while allowing unlimited attempts on problems requiring numeric and symbolic answers.
  • Flexible mechanisms are available for handling numeric, symbolic, and string answers. Numeric answers may (at the instructor's option) allow elementary functions such as 3sin(pi/2)+ln(e^2) which WeBWorK will evaluate, or the instructor can require that the student enter a numeric answer such as 5. Symbolic answers allow for questions such as: enter an anti-derivative for x^2cos(x^3). Some correct answers are .3333*sin(x^3) or (1/3)sin(x^3)+7; however (cos(x))^2+sin(x^3)/3+(sin(x))^2 is also correct and WeBWorK will accept that too. WeBWorK will accept any correct answer. String answers allow for True/False, matching, multiple-choice, and short answer questions.
  • Problem sets are graded automatically, and the resulting scores are easily exported to and imported from spreadsheet programs such as Excel. Much more detailed statistical information on the current progress of a class or an individual in completing any assignment is available.
  • For physics problems, WeBWorK can check units attached to numeric answers and make the proper conversions.
  • Graphs of functions can be generated "on the fly" by a single statement enabling one to easily ask questions involving individualized graphs for each student. GIF, PNG, and EPS illustrations, animated GIFs, HTML hyperlinks, JavaScript code and Java applets can all be embedded in WeBWorK problems in order to enhance their educational effectiveness.
  • The PG Language developed for writing WeBWorK problems is built on the widely used scripting language Perl. Mathematical formulas can be written in LaTeX, the mathematical typesetting language, and as with TeX, ease-of-use has been added in the form of macro packages. Even complicated numerical subroutines can be included to help check the answers to problems. Novice problem writers will use these macro packages to write problems, while expert problem writers can extend the capabilities of the language by writing new macro packages.
  • Students can access WeBWorK from any computer connected to the internet, and instructors can use any computer and browser for management of the assignments.
  • Instructors and TAs can view the precise version of the problem seen by each individual student, making it easy to answer specific questions from a student via e-mail or in person.
  • All pages have a feedback button that sends an e-mail message directly to the instructor (or whomever the instructor designates). Students find this a convenient way to communicate with their instructor, usually requesting help on a particular point. Student pages also have a help button that provides specific instructions and hints.
  • Instructors can send email to an entire class (of subset there of) reporting individual homework grades, exam grades etc.
  • WeBWorK allows great flexibility in administering individual homework. For example, an individual student can be given an extension on an assignment without granting an extension for the entire class. Or an individual student can be granted extra attempts on a problem that has a limit on the number of allowed attempts. The flexibility of WeBWorK allows its use by instructors with very different teaching styles.
  • Problems can have individualized solutions and/or hints (e.g., solutions can use the same individualized constants each student sees). After the due date, students can review the homework, including the answers expected by the instructor. Solutions to problems, if provided by the instructor, are also available after the due date. Students frequently work old assignments to review for exams.
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