A Day In The Life Of A Webwork2 Professor
Informal instructions for using WeBWorK
See Instructions for WeBWorK1.9 if using an older version of WeBWorK
This document gives details on how one professor actually uses WeBWorK. By clicking on the question mark image:
in the upper left part of the page, there may be a help page specific to the current page you're
viewing. Also the online discussion group at http://webhost.math.rochester.edu/webworkdocs/discuss/
is a good place to go for help.
- Adding Many Students at Once
When the course has first been created easiest way to do this is to obtain a spreadsheet of your student's
information and then edit it so it matches the ClassList specification
. Be sure to give the file a ".lst" extension, otherwise WeBWorK won't
recognize it as a class list. Once the file is ready, go to the File
Transfer Page to upload it. If you are a professor there should always
be a link to the File Transfer Page in the left hand column of the
webpage. Hit the "Browse" button in the classlist part of the page and
locate the file, highlight it and then hit the OK button. If you want
the classlist to have a different name, or perhaps you didn't give it a
".lst" extension, you can type a new name for the file in the "Use
name" blank and the same file will be saved to that name.
Once the file is uploaded it needs to be "imported". This is done on
the Class List Editor Page (there's a link to it in the left column).
Check the "radio button" (the circular thing next to the options) next
to the import option and select the file you just imported in the drop
down menu. Make sure that it says "adding any new users". Then press the "Take Action" button to import
- Adding a Few Students
If there are only a few students in a class, or you need to add one
student after the classlist was already imported, there is another
feature which may be easier to use. If you click on "Class List Editor"
in the lefthand column, on that page there is an "Add ___ student's"
option. Check the radio button next to that option and fill in however
many students you wish to add to the course and click on that hit "Take
Action" to go to the "Add Users" page.
Fill in the information for each student. The only
required fields are the "Student ID" and the "Login Name", but the
first and last name should probably be filled in, and if there is no
email address, the student will not recieve emails. (Don't worry if you
don't have the email address though, the student is able to enter or
change this on his own) The "Section" and "Recitation" fields may be
useful in very large classes since these options can be used to sort
students in various parts of the course, such as scoring.
Creating a Problem Set
Perhaps the most important part of having a successful course is to create good problem sets. You want the problems to
correctly reflect the topics that are discussed in class, and to be the appropriate difficulty level. Thus, creating
a problem set is one of the most important steps in a maintaining a successful WeBWorK course. Creating problem sets can also
be very time consuming, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time.
Very few WeBWorK professors write their own problems. Most
subject material in courses that are well suited to WeBWork has already
been covered by previous WeBWorK professors, and there is no need to
reinvent the wheel. But if you are writing new problems see below
"Writing New Problems or Editting Current Ones".
- Selecting and Adding Problems to a Set
First, go to the Library Browser Page (from the link in the lefthand
column). Notice that the buttons and menus are divided into four
layered sections, one on top of the other. The uppermost section is to
choose which library to look at. Pick one of the libraries and then in
the second section from the top choose one of the directories, or if it
is set up so the menus are for subject and chapter make the according
choices. There is an effort underway to make the problem libraries more
accessable by subject and chapter, but even if the library is only
organized by directory, the name of the directory is often enough to
find the proper subject material.
After making your choices from the menu(s) you can either
change the display mode or the number of problems per page (more
problems per page makes it longer to load the page) and then press the
"View Problems" button. There should now be problems visible below all
Before you start marking problems, make sure the set you wish
to add problems to is displayed on the menu in the third section down.
If you are creating a new set, type in the blank and press the "Create
a New Set in This Course" button (There is no need to put the word
"set" in front of the name, it is automatic on the new system) and then
make sure this new set name is displayed in the menu next to the words
"Adding Problems to Target Set:".
You are then ready to go through the problems and mark the ones
you want to add. When you press the "Update" button all the problems
marked to add or to not display do so. The other buttons in the lowest
section are fairly self explanatory. The "Rerandomize" button changes
the problem seed for the problems, which is what determines what the
Do not worry what order the problems are added in, or if you
accidentally add a problem you didn't want, you'll get a chance to fix
that later. You can change which problems you're viewing using the
method described above, and add as many as you want to to a set.
- Editing an Existing Problem Set
To edit an existing problem set, go to the Instructor Tools Page and
select the set in the lefthand menu, then click on the "Edit one set"
The open date is when the problems will become available to
those assigned them. Between the open date and the due date the
problems answers will be recorded. After the due date no new answers
will be recorded. The answers will become visible to students after the
answer date. These three dates must be sequential.
The set header file is what is displayed in the right hand
column on the set's page. The system default is a good template as to
what should be on that page. The easiest way to make your own for the
set, is to click on the link on this page, or the one displayed when
you view the set later (there will be a link entitled "edit" on the set
header, visible to all professors).
After changing these things press the "Save" button. In order
for you to tranfer this problem set's data to another course or to your
local machine it must be exported to a .def file. But don't export the
file using the "Export Set" button until you are done editing the set.
Once the set is exported it can be transfered from the File Transfer
Page to your local machine. If having transfered them to your machine
you wish to edit them there, or perhaps understand what they consist
of, you can find out how the file is set up on the set definition file format
Once all the dates have been saved, click on the "Edit the list of
problems in this set" link. This page can also be accessed by going to
the Hmwk Sets Editor page and clicking on the link in the "Problems"
column of that problem set's row at the bottom of the page. If you want
to view the problems, change the display mode from "None" to "images"
or whichever you want, and press the "Refresh" button.
The order of problems can be changed by changing the numbers in
the menus in the upper left hand corner of each problem's box. To
delete check the box, but if you accidentally delete one, you'll have
to go back to the Library Browser Page and find it's original location
to add it back again. The weight refers to how much the problem counts
when scored, this is usually left at one unless there is a "practice"
set at the begining of a course to get the students used to WeBWorK and
then professors often set it to 0. Usually students are allowed an
unlimited (write "unlim" in the box) amount of attempts at a problem,
but sometimes if the problems are multiple choice a professor wants to
limit how many times a student can try. (Students have a bad habit of
guessing on multiple choice problems) When you wish to save changes
made to the set, scroll down to the bottom of the page and press the
"Save Problem Changes" button.
- Adding Students to a Problem Set
Go to the Hmwk Sets Editor page, in the table at the bottom of the
page, click on the link in the "Assigned Users" column of the set's
row. To assign the set to all users, press the button marked as such.
To assign to some subset of users, check the ones to be assigned and
press the "Save" button. Be careful not to uncheck anybody who's
already started since all the date will be lost.
- Making a Set Visible to Students
The default for new sets is "invisible", this makes it so students
can't see what you're working on. Once everything is ready for the
students to see you want to make the sets "visible". To do this go to
the Hmwk Sets Editor Page and click on the pencil next to the set's
name and then check the "visible" checkbox and make sure you switch the
option to "Save Changes" before you press the "Take Action" button.
Scoring a Problem Set
You can do scoring from the web.
Go to the Scoring Tools Page. You can either score one set at a time,
or get a total score for all the sets. To score one set select it and
press the "Score Selected Set(s)" button. To score multiple sets,
highlight them and press the button, this will create a "totals" file
which combines the scores from all of the sets to give final scores, if
the checkbox is checked, then the regular files for each individual set
are created also.
The scoring procedure creates files (in .csv format) that include the
status of the problems, the number of attempts, and also the final
score of the problems.
You can download these different files onto your personal computer
clicking on the file names on this page, or from the File Transfer
You should realize that scoring a problem set is like
writing grades into your grading book, once the grades are entered they are fixed unless you change
them. Whatever a student does after a set has been scored, does not effect the scoring files.
There is no standard procedure of when to do scoring. You may have a few options.
- You can score each problem set right after the problem set is due. This way, you can email your students their homework
grades throughout the semester. The trouble with this is that if you gave a student an extension but scored the set before
the student completed the set, anything the student did after you scored the set would not be recorded. Once the student
has completed the set, you would have to edit the scoring files accordingly by hand.
- You can score all of the problem sets at the end of the semester. This way, there are no problems with extensions and no
major editing needs to be done. The drawback is that you wouldn't be able to send emails to your students.
- The final option is a combination of the other options above. You can score each problem set right after the problem set
is due, email your students if you want, and then score once more at the end of the semester. Scoring a set just appends
the scores to the totals file so if you score a set twice, it will appear twice in the totals file. Thus, if you do this,
you would have to use the totals file accordingly.
It should be noted that the first time a scoring file is created, student names,
sections, and recitations will be taken from the current classlist information. If you score a set after that, the new
information is appended to that scoring file by matching student ID's. If you change a student's
recitation (or name, etc) but keep their student ID, the new recitation will not be written in that scoring
file. If students add or drop the course, this will be handled automatically.
Also, it's easy to use e.g. excel to add exam grades to the scoring file.
See Grading problem sets for more information on scoring.
Sending Email to Students
Sometimes, after you score problem sets, you may want to send your
students an email discussing thier scores. Other times you may want to
send an email to students with general announcements about your course.
This can be accomplished on the
Email Page, which allows you to send personalized emails. When sending
mail from the email page, make sure all the fields which originally
contain "FIXME" are changed. The email can be sent
to all, or any subset of the students.
The personalized variables can be viewed by clicking on the "list of insertable macros" drop down menu. They are:
$FN - first name, $LN - last name, $SID - student id number, $SECTION - student's section, $RECITATION - student's
recitation, $STATUS - C, drop, withdrawl, audit, etc, $EMAIL - student's email address, $LOGIN - student's login name,
$COL - third column in merge file, $COL[-1] - last column in merge file.
Here is a copy of a typical email :
This email message should go to everyone in mth141 for whom I have
an email address.
NEW WEBWORK ASSIGNMENT:
A new WeBWorK assignment (assignment 8) covering the material from
this week's lectures is up on the WeBWorK system. It must be completed
by 2:00am Tuesday, November 5. Remember, assignment 7 must be completed
by 2:00am Tuesday, October 29.
YOUR RECENT SCORES:
Your score on WeBWorK assignment 5 was $COL[-3] points out of a
possible 15 points. Your score on WeBWorK assignment 6 was $COL[-1]
points out of a possible 10 points. Your score on Exam 2 was $COL[-2]
points out of a possible 100 points.
These scores should include any adjustments I have made. If there are
any errors in these scores, please see me.
Have an enjoyable weekend.
Now you can send a "personalized" email to your students by merging the above with the
mth141_totals.csv file (the scoring file
from assignment 5). Be sure to set the merge file in the drop down menu in the upper right hand corner.
Usually you want to be really careful, so you can first preview the
email by selecting some student in the drop down menu and clicking on
the "Preview" button. This allows you to read the email with all the
variables filled in for that student.
To save your self future work, you may want to save one email
to use as a template for other emails. You can save as many as you
want, but the one you save as default is the one that appears when you first go to the screen so that should be the template you use most often.
Viewing Student(s) Progress
The student's progress can be viewed by going to the Student Progress
Page, a link to which is in the left hand column. You can eith view
the statistics on one set for all users, or all sets for one user. This
is a good place to find out how an individual student is doing in the
course, or to find out how the class as a whole is doing on a
The "ind" column is a statistical "success" indicator for the
problem set, calculated as: ((totalNumOfCorrectProblems /
totalNumOfProblems)^2)/ AvgNumOfAttemptsPerProblem) which is a fairly
good indicator of how well the students are grasping the concepts.
Acting as a Student
Often when a student is having trouble with a particular problem it
is helpful to see thier version of the problem. You can do this by
going to the Instructor Tools Page and selecting the student and the
set and click the "Act as one user on one set" button. You can enter
answers into the student's problem, they will not be recorded. Once you
are done "acting" as that student, be sure to click on the
"Stop Acting" link in the upper left hand corner of the screen.
Changing Set Data For an Individual Student
There are many times when you need to give a student an extension on a
problem set, or change their score on a problem, or change the
variables of a problem for a particular student. You can accomplish
this by going to the Instructor Tools Page and selecting the student
and the set, and then pressing the "Edit one set for one user" button.
To give an extension, click on override, and change the due date and
answer date. If you want to give a student different variables than
they currently have, click on the "Edit list of problems in this set
for studentname" link at the bottom of this page. Changing the "problem
seed" for a particular problem gives it different variables. The
students score on a particular problem can be changed here also.
Changing a Password
If a student forgets his or her password, you can give them a new
password. Go to the Instructor Tools Page and select the student and
press the "Change Password" button.
Removing Students or Changing Status
It is better to "drop" a student from a course instead of deleting
them, since deleting them destroys all their data which may be needed
later. In order to drop the student, go to the ClassList Editor page
and select the user (by checking the box next to his name in, then
select the "Edit selected users" option and click the Take Action
button. Just enter the word DROP or the letter D in the status box for
the student classlist information. You may want to enter a comment
giving the drop date. You can later resurrect the student by changing
his or her status to C (for current).
In that case, you may want to make sure the student has been assigned
the problem sets.
Writing New Problems or Editing Current Ones
You may want to select problems from the text book which you want to
modify into WeBWorK problems. In order to create a problem template
file (i.e. a .pg file), usually you
start with a .pg file containing a problem similar to the one you
already want and modify it.
Nearly everywhere you see a problem there is an "Edit it" link. If you
click on this link you will be take to an editor where you can edit
this problem. This may not be an easy task, since this is computer
code. There is a link on the editing page to the "Man pages" which can
help you learn to write and edit problems.
You won't want to write over the current problem (you probably
won't be allowed to either), so give it a new name by typing it in the
"Save As" blank. Be sure to also type in proper directory to put it. If
the directory you type doesn't exist, WeBWork will make it. So if you
type in "new/problem.pg", WeBWorK will create the "new" directory for
the problem.pg problem. This directory will the be available in the
Local Problems section of the Library Browser Page.
When writing your own problems, you will usually have a few errors here and there. It is usually a good idea to click on the
"Refresh" button often to make sure the problem is working.
Writing totally new problems may be difficult for a newer
professor to do, but if you just want to change the wording or the
variable parameters, it may be worth the time to make the small changes
and save that problem to a new directory. Perhaps the best way to learn
how the problems are written is making small changes to a bunch of
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