Anneke Bart

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Updated: 21 hours 37 min ago

MAA PREP workshop: Problem Authoring (WeBWorK)

Sat, 10/12/2013 - 06:47


Last summer I did a PREP workshop on authoring problems in WeBWorK. The presentations by John Travis, Davide Cervone, Gavin Larose, Paul Pearson, and others were wonderful. This MAA sponsored workshop was conducted online and ran for several weeks on Mondays.
If you had told me even two years ago that I would be attempting to write problems I would have shaken my head sadly, and muttered something along the lines of “the poor dear is delusional”. But here I was learning about writing essay questions, multiple choice and multiple select questions and how to randomize the variables.
I was really glad to hear that one of my colleagues had decided to jump into authoring problems at the same time. It was really nice to have someone to compare notes with and ask questions of.
The initial “intimidation factor” may be there for many out there, but take it from someone who has taken the jump: It is not as hard as it looks. My advice would be:
  • If you can find a colleague to work with, then that is a big plus. Being able to trouble shoot with someone close by is really useful.
  • If you do not have someone close by, you can still get a lot of help from the online forum. WeBWork Forum Link
  • Start with existing problems and modify them. I would look for problems similar to what I wanted to do and then just adapt them to my needs. This includes finding a problem and adding random variables, modifying multiple select questions, etc. I have even passed on templates to colleagues who are now coding their own reading questions.
  • Writing you own problems from scratch is hard (well, for me it is). If you cannot find a template in the problem library, then go to the WeBWorK wiki and browse through the author pages there. There are many templates available and I have found it relatively easy to adapt them. Link to WeBWork Author Resources
  • Do take your time. It can take a while to write a good problem (even when adapting an already existing one). And document your work. Include what course this is for, what text it is from (if applicable), and write the solution part. It is sometimes tempting to skip the latter when in a hurry, but then that may never get done and the comments may be very useful to students!

I have been writing questions myself for reading quizzes I give my students, and to create questions for placement tests. But that is something I will talk about in later posts.
- Anneke
Categories: Planet WeBWorK

WeBWork, Raleigh, NC, 2013

Mon, 03/11/2013 - 12:27


We just completed a 3-day workshop on WeBWorK. It's interesting to see the directions this is taking.
  • We can now assign free response questions. This was more or less introduced last summer if I remember correctly and the feature has been tested by several people. The submitted answers are listed, and each answer can be graded by choosing a grade 0-25-50-75-100 form a drop down menu. One of my colleagues who tried it said it was fast to grade and easy to use.
  • Instructors can use "achievements" if they choose to. This will assign "badges" to students if they do certain things. For instance if they work a certain number of problems, do problems before a certain time in the morning, etc. This is part of the so-called game-ification of WeBWorK. I have not tried it yet, but when I asked my students last Fall more than half indicated they might find this kinda fun.
  • There are now more problem sets for statistics. Problem sets have been classroom tested at several colleges and universities and are ready to be rolled out. This will be very nice to have as we may expect to be teaching more stats courses due to the increased requirements at the MCAT. 
  • Related to the previous item is work being done to incorporate the statistics package R into WeBWorK. This is still some time off (months???), but that will help developers create more problems more easily.
Those are some of the big ticket items, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes!
Categories: Planet WeBWorK