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Thomas Hagedorn - More Webwork Suggestions

Thomas Hagedorn - More Webwork Suggestions

by Arnold Pizer -
Number of replies: 0
inactiveTopicMore Webwork Suggestions topic started 9/17/2003; 4:28:39 PM
last post 9/18/2003; 6:23:01 PM
userThomas Hagedorn - More Webwork Suggestions  blueArrow
9/17/2003; 4:28:39 PM (reads: 764, responses: 1)

First, let me say what a wonderful product Webwork is.   We've just started using it for most
of our Calculus classes and it's had a big impact already.  We hope to expand upon this
in future courses.  Many thanks to everyone at Rochester for their efforts.

We are also having some problems that I think could be easily solved and I'd like
to make two suggestions:

1.   Would it be possible to encode the version number of Webwork that each
problem works with?    When we upgraded from Webwork 1.8 to Webwork 1.9 about
a month ago, we found that some old problems worked fine, but others didn't work.  Trouble-shooting showed that the old problems were often rewritten to a newer version
and substituting the name of the newer version would solve the problem.   If each problem
were encoded with the version number of Webwork that it goes with,  that would give
Professors an easy way of spotting an error and realizing that they need to find a newer
version of the problem (rather than thinking that they have the current version and that
there is an error in it).  

2.   Is it possible to have a (read-only) central repository of problems on the local system that would be the default location that the Webwork system would check for the problems?  I foresee that in an individual course directory, one would store the setDefinition files as well as any problems that the professor has modified.   The Webwork program could first check the local course directory for the problem and if there isn't a problem there, then it would check the central depository.

The reason I suggest this is that as we correct/modify problems at the systemwide level, it would be easier to have one "master" set of problems to work with (I expect that only
the root or wwadmin user would be able to modify these problems).   As it is now, it is difficult to update problems during a course as one has to copy over problems in each professor's course and one can overwrite problems that a professor has already modified.

Any thoughts?


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userJohn Jones - Re: More Webwork Suggestions  blueArrow
9/18/2003; 6:23:01 PM (reads: 1009, responses: 0)

We use suggestion 2 within the current framework of WW.  I have a directory Library, with subdirectories of ASU-topics, Rochester, etc.  All of the files under this structure are 644, so only the owner (me) can modify them.  The web server can read them, but not right them.

When creating a course, I have a tar file of the usual stuff, but it includes a symbolic link in the templates directory to the Library.  I then copy the set definition files for the course into the templates directory and give the web server write permissions on those.  The paths to files already have Library/ASU-topics/setGraphs/... in them.

Our faculty can then have our "standard" version of a course to start with, and they cannot change the official versions of the problem files.  They can modify set definition files to take problems out and change dates.

In theory, instructors could use Save As in the problem editor to create new problem files.  It will work if they don't try to save into the Library, but reduce the path to just a single filename (which then goes into their templates directory).  No one does this, but the possibility exists.

An idea I had a while ago and haven't gotten around to is to have the system be a little more savy about editting problems in the "Library" - so that it automatically makes a corresponding directory in the course's templates directory, saves there, and asks if the set definition file/built set should be updated to point to the new file.  We have a grant proposal under submission related to a National problem library.  If it is funded, then this part will definitely get programmed.

It is reasonable to ask how the first part of your suggestion will be handled by a national problem library.  We hadn't thought about this aspect since problems are not supposed to stop working with later versions of WW.  On the bright side, part of the grant proposal is to test and clean up problems before we include them in the national library.  Problems which don't work with the latest version of WW would be fixed.


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