How does the instructor use WeBWorK?
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
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 team -- can be asked using the WeBWorK program.
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.
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's page" 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.
the "Instructor's page" 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.
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.