How instructors use WeBWorK
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- The homework (or WeBWorK) problems are processed by the scripting language Perl. Perl is freely available, well designed and maintained and is widely used for CGI scripting — the kind of programming which makes dynamically created webpages available on the Internet. Most problems require only that the instructor enter the text describing the problem, and assign a random value generator to those parameters which will change for each version of the homework problem. This much is quite easy to learn. Mathematical formulas and equations appearing in problems are usually written in TeX, a very widely used language for mathematical and technical typesetting.
- On the other hand, the full processing power of Perl is available, so that as an instructor acquires experience and ambition, a wide variety of new types of problems — including those not envisioned by the WeBWorK developers — can be asked using the WeBWorK program.
- In addition to writing the actual homework problems (or selecting them from a bank of pre-written problems) the instructor must also "build" a homework set. This is a highly automated process of assigning the problems for a homework problem set, and providing a random seed for each problem and each student, so that each student has their own version of the problem set.
- Any e-mail sent to the instructor via the feedback button contains information about exactly what version of the problem the students is working on. Using programs on the "Intructor Tools" of WeBWorK the instructor can quickly view the student's version of the homework problem (including the answer the computer is expecting) in order to better answer the student's questions.
- From the "Instructor Tools" the instructor can also view the current progress of the entire class in answering the homework set and use this information to plan classroom presentations.
- If the professor finds a mistake in a problem, he can correct it and this correction appears immediately on the screens of any student viewing the problem, (but not, of course, on the paper copies which have already been printed out). This is one of the big advantages of the dynamic processing mode used by WeBWorK in which each homework assignment is created at the moment it is requested ("just in time" as they say) using the latest, up-dated information.