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John Jones - Request for opinions

John Jones - Request for opinions

by Arnold Pizer -
Number of replies: 0
inactiveTopicRequest for opinions topic started 9/6/2002; 9:15:30 AM
last post 9/16/2002; 4:36:28 AM
userJohn Jones - Request for opinions  blueArrow
9/6/2002; 9:15:30 AM (reads: 1725, responses: 7)

Here are some small changes I have in my version of WeBWorK. Of course, I think they are clear improvements, but since they make visible changes to the users, I was interested in feedback before seeing about making them standard. On the whole, the idea is to make things look nicer to students.

If you like/dislike some, please chime in.


  • Every time a course name or set name is shown to the student, I have WeBWorK change underscores to spaces. The underscore is kind of a poor man's space. It is internally necessary, but I see no reason to expose students to it.


  • Along similar lines, there are buttons with labels of Do_problem_set and Get_hard_copy. The underscores really seem unnecessary, so I would change them to spaces. In fact, another spot in the code is already ready for this change.


  • I also strip off the word "set" from the beginning of the name of a problem set when showing it to students. In my mind, this is more flexible. If you like the word set, you could have say an assignment called "Set Derivatives" by using setSet_Derivatives.def .


  • When a student clicks on a graph to get an enlarged view, it opens in another window. So far so good. If they click on another graph, it is shown in the same "other browser window". If a problem has more than one graph image, the student toggles between them, but it is hard for the student to have two enlarged graphs open at the same time. The proposed change is for clicking on a graph to always open a new browser window.


  • When a student is close to running out of attempts on a problem, WeBWorK warns them (which is good) in italics to the right of the preview button. I would make it bold face above the submit button. I have seen problems from at least two sources that have bold face warnings in the problem text, so I take this as a sign that others also think the warning should be stronger and earlier. If the WeBWorK-generated warning were changed as above, individual problems don't have to do it (which makes it easier to reuse those problems - either as limited attempt or as unlimited attempt - without changing the problem file).


  • Remove the name of the script which generates a particular page (and psvn) from the bottom of the page for students. I don't think internal workings should be exposed to students.


Please, throw in your $0.02 . Inquiring minds want to know what you think.


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userMark Schmitt - Re: Request for opinions  blueArrow
9/7/2002; 4:30:48 AM (reads: 2034, responses: 0)

Underscores => spaces is a great idea, IMO. Both in text and on buttons.

I also like the idea of stripping the word "set".

The warning idea is also very good. I have had a number of students say that they missed the warnings, so moving them up and bolding them would be good.

I agree that there is no need for students to see the script names or PSVN numbers. The script name is often found in the URL, so repeating it seems redundant.

As for the graphs, it sounds like a good idea, but I wonder how many students will get confused over all the open windows. While I'd like to think students are getting more computer savvy, I'm not really seeing it in the run-of-the-mill set.


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userBill Ziemer - Re: Request for opinions  blueArrow
9/8/2002; 7:29:58 PM (reads: 1997, responses: 0)
I agree with all your points, and had at one time or another thought, "I should do something about that after..."

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userCarl F. Letsche - Re: Request for opinions  blueArrow
9/9/2002; 1:37:48 AM (reads: 2027, responses: 0)
Sorry, I didn't know asterixes made things bold on the BB pages.

I like the changes, and I'm sure there are others that I've thought of...

In particular, the 'set' thing has always bothered me. In an older version we had running at Altoona (1.4?) you didn't need the phrase 'setwhatever.def' for you definition files - 'whatever.def' was acceptable. I definitely preferred that - the assignment names were more flexible. Rather that stripping it off the display, why not eradicate it entirely - or are we treading on security issues?


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userJohn Jones - Re: Request for opinions  blueArrow
9/9/2002; 4:35:53 AM (reads: 1986, responses: 0)
Hi again,

On whatever.def vs. setwhatever.def, I think that is a moot point in the long run; there is discussion of replacing set definition files with a database structure. In the meantime, this can be a way to have more freedom in naming.

On student's lack of computer savy with respect to browser windows with graphs (Mark's post), I agree that students ending up with lots of browser windows of graphs is a potential problem. But, with either apprach, a student may need more computer savy to accomplish what they want. Learning to close unwanted windows is a pretty useful and general skill both for web browsing and other computer use. Cloning a picture into another window is much less common, and you may have to know something about making web pages to realize that cloning the window is what you need to do to see two graphs at once.


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userMichael Gage - Re: Request for opinions  blueArrow
9/14/2002; 4:59:10 PM (reads: 1986, responses: 0)
A quick comment about the underscore on the submit buttons:

At the time we did it we wanted the values sent back to the server not to have spaces in it. (I'm not sure that this was essential, probably we got bitten by a coding error in which someone typed two spaces between the words and then spent half an hour tracking down why the button didn't work.) My understanding of the submit button is that it's value is automatically displayed within the button.

There are newer standards (using the BUTTON tag for example) which would probably allow the button to separate it's value and it's visual presentation. We'll need to check that whatever method we use works in most browsers, but getting rid of the underscores seems like a good idea.

As to the psvn numbers. They were also originally debugging tools, and there is really no need to list the script. The psvn can be used to completely identify the problem version for a given student, so it's been occasionally useful in that regard. It's usefullness has diminished somewhat as other tools have been added (for example the feedback e-mail that includes a link to the student's version of the problem). Still, just printing the number in a lower corner is pretty unobtrusive, and might provide useful information in some cases.


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userJohn Jones - Re: Request for opinions  blueArrow
9/16/2002; 4:20:53 AM (reads: 1968, responses: 0)
By and large, the spaces in submit button names doesn't cause a problem (at least I haven't had student complaints and I put the change in here a few weeks ago). Perhaps there was a problem at one time which has essentially been fixed by someone fixing a bug in WeBWorK (of the sort you suggested) or by people now using more recent browsers.

But, I wouldn't want to make life more difficult for students. If anyone tries it and finds a browser which has problems, please speak up.

On the topic of buttons, it would nice if all of the buttons had nice images. It looks like someone started to do that and stopped. Having groups of buttons which are uniform width would improve the basic look of WeBWorK pages.

On the bottom of the page, should I leave the PSVN but change the "Page produced by script..." line to the current time/date (taking care of a suggestion from another thread at the same time)?


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userMichael Gage - Re: Request for opinions  blueArrow
9/16/2002; 4:36:28 AM (reads: 1977, responses: 0)
That sounds good to me, John. Go ahead and make those changes.

It would be great if someone could find time to work on better images for the buttons. Personally I'd favor something low key (not flashy) but easy to look at and to find on the page.

-- Mike

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