Forum archive 2000-2006

Hal Sadofsky - WebWork administration - who does it?

Hal Sadofsky - WebWork administration - who does it?

by Arnold Pizer -
Number of replies: 0
inactiveTopicWebWork administration - who does it? topic started 1/24/2006; 5:58:54 PM
last post 1/27/2006; 12:14:56 PM
userHal Sadofsky - WebWork administration - who does it?  blueArrow
1/24/2006; 5:58:54 PM (reads: 575, responses: 5)
Hi, We've been running WebWork on a trial basis (about 90 students per term for the last two terms) and are thinking of adopting it on a more wholesale basis. I've been doing the administrative work (maintaining the server, keeping the software up to date, backups, addding courses and instructors, etc.) It has required very little time.

But if we start using this with 2500 or 3000 students per term, this is not a responsibility I'm anxious to have. So my question is (for places which have a lot of students using WebWork), how do you handle this? Is this done by faculty in their "spare" time? Do you have administrators paid by the math department? Have any of you gotten this to be taken on by some central computing department?

I'm looking for possible solutions, and am interested in what others have done.

thanks, Hal

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userGavin LaRose - Re: WebWork administration - who does it?  blueArrow
1/26/2006; 10:07:33 AM (reads: 665, responses: 0)
Hi Hal,

Ok, I'll bite. At Michigan (WeBWorK used for homework and gateway testing for on the order of 3500-4000 students a term) we have the luxury of having a person (me) who is part-time instructional technology staff and maintains the WeBWorK system. I set up the courses, manage the question banks, do updates to course rosters, etc.

We also have a systems group that is responsible for the actual administration of our instructional technology servers, an arrangement that I think is splendid.


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userArnold K. Pizer - Re: WebWork administration - who does it?  blueArrow
1/26/2006; 10:53:24 AM (reads: 647, responses: 0)
Hi Hal,

Here's what we do at Rochester. We are a smaller operation with approximately 1000 students in 10 courses (20 total sections) per semester.

I handle most of the WEBWorK administrative tasks which include:

1. Renaming courses at the end of the semester so that we have a resord of everything. Also at this time I export all problem sets which creates set definition files so it's very easy for a new instructor to use the same (or nearly the same) sets of homework problems.

2. I set up the new courses and also get electronic classlists from the registrar and enter in all new students. I also build an initial introductory set. Sometimes I enter in the TA's and othertimes I leave this to the professors teaching the course.

3. I put a copy of the set definition files from the previous year in the new course templates directory so if an instructor wants to be lazy (most do) they can use the same problem used the previous year with minimal work.

That's pretty much all I do. After the courses begins, almost all prof's handle evrything themselves. A few need a little extra hand holding. I rationalize that the above duties come under my duties as Assoc. Chair.

In addition we hire undergraduate WeBWorK TA's for most courses. Their duties vary from course to course, but usually they just answer feedback email (which the prof's oversee).

All system admininstration stuff is handled by our departmental system's admin.

Maybe some larger places can comment on this. For example John Jones at Arizona State runs a much larger shop with over 100 WeBWorK sections per semester. Santa Barbara (John Doner) and Utah (Peter Alfeld) are also places from which I might seek advice.


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userBob Byerly - Re: WebWork administration - who does it?  blueArrow
1/26/2006; 11:29:09 AM (reads: 664, responses: 0)

I'm an example of a faculty member who does WeBWorK administration in his "spare" time. We're using WeBWorK for about 1500-2000 students per semester. We're also investigating the possibility of using WeBWorK for placement testing. We have a systems person who is responsible for setting up and maintaining our servers (in practice, I assist with this on occasion). I handle WeBWorK maintenance (updating software, backups, etc.) and a colleague, David Gilliam, handles class rosters. (We can get rosters in spreadsheet form containing the information WeBWorK needs; this helps.) David and I share the responsibility of keeping the questions up to date, fielding questions from instructors, and educating instructors on the use of WeBWorK. (After a point, the instructors help educate each other.)

It sometimes takes more time than I would like, but it's not all consuming. For me, the amount of time required for administrative work has definitely not increased greatly with usage. If you can find one or more colleagues to assist with handling class rosters and maintaining problems, it may not take significantly more time than it already does.

David and I also try to write problems; this is the real time sink.


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userArnold K. Pizer - Re: WebWork administration - who does it?  blueArrow
1/26/2006; 1:10:27 PM (reads: 642, responses: 0)

Concerning classlists, at Rochester we have a simple perl script (that is distributed with WeBWorK 1.9 but is not in the WeBWorK 2 distribution) that converts our registrar's classlists into the form WeBWorK requires.

It would be a simple matter to edit this script for use at any school that provides electronic classlists.


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userHal Sadofsky - Re: WebWork administration - who does it?  blueArrow
1/27/2006; 12:14:56 PM (reads: 650, responses: 0)
Arnie, Gavin and Bob,

Thanks for the helpful responses! (I'm still listening if anyone else is interested in putting in their thoughts about this).


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