Comparison of CAPA and WeBWorK
Since it is impossible to avoid comparisons between these two programs we address the matter straightforwardly:
There is no discernable difference in the educational philosophy driving CAPA and WeBWorK. Indeed, WeBWorK began as an effort to improve some of the technical difficulties involved in writing problems for CAPA.
In terms of technological design, WeBWorK
attempts to build on the freely available technology of others. CAPA is
a self-contained C program and the advances in processing must come
from improvements to CAPA itself. WeBWorK knits together
existing web programs, leveraging the work done by the programming
community surrounding the internet, in order to accomplish the same
goals as CAPA.
One consequence of this is that any improvement of WeBWorK
components (for example the switch from Perl4 to Perl5 scripting
language, or the introduction of the new Microsoft browser) has an
immediate effect on WeBWorK as well. Usually, little or no change is needed in WeBWorK
itself to take advantage of the improvements. For CAPA, the
improvements need to be written into the computer code of the CAPA
application. As another example the introduction of a faster web server
(created by anyone in the internet community) will immediately speed up
the delivery of WeBWorK documents.
Another consequence is that any computer which can work with the internet can work with WeBWorK.
CAPA was for many years restricted to computers running the NeXT
operation system, although the newest version can also be run under
The third important consequence is that those writing the problem sets
can call on the full abilities of Perl, arguably the best text
manipulation language available, rather than the restricted set of
functions offered by CAPA. Since they can also use any HTML constructs,
including those yet to be introduced, problem writers have power and
flexibility and ease of use which is not currently available in the
It is because of this use of commonly available web programs that WeBWorK
has been able to match and in places exceed CAPA's capabilities in less
than a year and a half of part-time development by two professors, a
student systems manager, and two student interns.