Something that accomplishes this is certainly possible (and maybe
desirable). In fact currently if a student checks either a "show
solution" or "show hint" check box, the typeset version is regenerated.
Otherwise, the cached image (if available) is used.
However, there is a trade off in speed. On average it may take 5
seconds or longer to create the typeset image using latex2html. If a
lot of students do this simultaneously (e.g. just before an assignment
is due), it will overwhelm the server. This is why we use cached images
in the first place. Since there are (at least currrently) few problems
with hints or solutions regenerating the typeset images for these types
of problems doesn't lead to server overload. The help buttom link at
the bottom the problem page explains this as follows:
For obscure technical reasons, in "typeset Mode", whenever you have the
Show Solution box is checked, WeBWorK will take a long time to display
the problem and solution. If the solution has been displayed once in
"typeset Mode", it will always be displayed in "typeset Mode" even if
the Show Solution box is not checked. Under these circumstances,
leaving the Show Solution box unchecked will result in a much faster
The same comment holds for hints (actually as John Jones has pointed
out, there is a bug in how hints and typeset mode work which we we fix
One problem that will occur if we implement this change is that some
instructors (with slow servers or large classes) will have trouble
whereas others will not.
The current solution is to tell students to use formatted text mode for
certain problems. We do this for interactive problems and e.g. many
problem involving matrices. A related solution would be (as is desired
by Mark Schmitt) to allow a tag in a .pg file that forces the default
mode or the actual mode for that problem to be formatted text or
typeset or whatever.
I guess a major question is whether formatted text is acceptable for
all interactive type problems or if one really needs tpeset mode for
such problems? Some feedback from users on this question would
certainly be appreciated.
In the long run (hopefully not too long) when common browsers support
MathML, we will be able replace latex2html output with MathML output.
That will eliminate the problems caused by cached html images.
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