Comparison of WeBWorK and CAPA
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Since it is impossible to avoid comparisons between these two programs we address the matter straightforwardly:
- There is no discernable difference in the educational philosophy driving CAPA and WeBWorK. Indeed, WeBWorK began as an effort to improve some of the technical difficulties involved in writing problems for CAPA.
- In terms of technological design, WeBWorK attempts to build on the freely available technology of others. CAPA is a self-contained C program and the advances in processing must come from improvements to CAPA itself. WeBWorK knits together existing web programs, leveraging the work done by the programming community surrounding the internet, in order to accomplish the same goals as CAPA.
- One consequence of this is that any improvement of WeBWorK components (for example the switch from Perl4 to Perl5 scripting language, or the introduction of the new Microsoft browser) has an immediate effect on WeBWorK as well. Usually, little or no change is needed in WeBWorK itself to take advantage of the improvements. For CAPA, the improvements need to be written into the computer code of the CAPA application. As another example the introduction of a faster web server (created by anyone in the internet community) will immediately speed up the delivery of WeBWorK documents.
- Another consequence is that any computer which can work with the internet can work with WeBWorK. CAPA was for many years restricted to computers running the NeXT operation system, although the newest version can also be run under X-Windows.
- The third important consequence is that those writing the problem sets can call on the full abilities of Perl, arguably the best text manipulation language available, rather than the restricted set of functions offered by CAPA. Since they can also use any HTML constructs, including those yet to be introduced, problem writers have power and flexibility and ease of use which is not currently available in the CAPA system.
- It is because of this use of commonly available web programs that WeBWorK has been able to match and in places exceed CAPA's capabilities in less than a year and a half of part-time development by two professors, a student systems manager, and two student interns.