Online resources and discussions led by Bob Hasson, math faculty member at College of San Mateo, on how to use the MAA's WeBWorK free online resource.  Instructors can post homework exercises and/or assign already posted exercises.  Bob has created online algebra homework for his students using the MAA’s WeBWorK platform, and will explain the process and impacts. Bob will also answer questions and host a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of WeBWorK for students to practice what they are learning in class.

 

The content and process for exploring WeBWorK will be tailored to the interests and needs of faculty participants. Interested faculty at colleges participating in the Bay Area, San Diego and Los Angeles regional Knowledge Exchanges for Developmental Math are particularly welcome. Contact your college representative on the Faculty Colleagues team to become a member of the Knowledge Exchange and then indicate your interest and ideas in the fields below.

 

Expressions of Interest

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This is Bob Hasson of the College of San Mateo.  Actually there is quite a bit at the developmental algebra level in the Webwork national library.  I count more than 700 problems (but there may be quite a few dupiicates).  And this amount increases as time goes by.  However, the library could certainly be better organized.

I have used Webwork in trig, calculus 1 and 2, and linear algebra so far.  In trig I have written almost all of the about 70 problems I use -- I found that the trig problems in the library were mostly not suitable.  I've also authored a few problems in each of the other courses.  In the South Bay incarnation of this project, I also authored thirty some problems for the developmental algebra level.  But I have not yet used them in a course!

For the teacher there are advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:

   *  Webwork is free.

   *  Webwork is independent of text book, so you lose nothing when you or your department changes the text.

Disadvantages:

   *  It is independent of text book, so you can't just assign problems out of the text book.

The responses of students, in my experience, have been mostly positive as seen in end-of-semester teacher evaluation questionnaires.  (I do my own questionnaires in close to every course I teach.)  Students like the immediate feed back.  But there have been interesting objections, sometimes very vigorously expressed:

   *  Some students still have trouble with and fear about the technology, and get quite upset that they must deal with the computer.

   *  Some students are unhappy that they are really accountable for homework, and that they must get things completely right to get credit.  Many of these don't have the time for much homework, or else they want a rerun of high school demands.

   *  Some students are unhappy that in Webwork they can not call up a similar example (like they can in MyMathLab) to show them what to do.  Others complain that the problems don't give hints.  (This is Bruce Yoshiwara:  If the instructor wants to do so, s/he can edit the WeBWorK problem so that it will provide hints, and/or insert hyperlinks that can take the student to any webpage with examples, videos, applets, etc. that the instructor provides.)  

   *  Some students are unhappy that the system will not  flag where they made a mistake, so that they must find mistakes themselves, or with the help of the teacher or a tutor.   (This is Bruce Yoshiwara:  WeBWorK problems typically have editable settings on whether or not individual parts of a problem will be flagged as right or wrong when students submit answers.  Most WeBWorK problems give default feedback about inappropriate answer syntax.  The intrepid exercise author can create specialized answer checkers with custom feedback.)  

In my grading system homework counts 10% of the grade, and an 80% homework grade is necessary in order to drop the lowest exam during the semester.  So blowing off homework hurts, but there is still quite a bit of blowing off -- but not nearly as much as without the homework system.

In the courses in which I use Webwork, I find it makes a striking difference.  Students are more there at class time, the whole attitude of the class is more positive and productive, and students complain less about the course (though they may complain about Webwork at first).

 

Like Guillermo, I think that developmental students will probably have a harder time with the system than do transfer level students.  They are less socialized to academics, often less committed, and need more support than do transfer level students.

 

 

Hi this is Guillermo Alvarez from San Diego City College and I am interested in using webwork for developmental math. We use MyMathlab exclusively right now and we are looking into other options. I have used webwork in a calculus course in the past supplemented with regular textbook homework and I found students would easily get frustrated with the homework system. I would imagine it would be worse for developmental math students. Care to share your experiences?

This is Bruce Yoshiwara from Los Angeles Pierce College.  I've been authoring WeBWorK exercises for developmental math projects we have going on at Pierce over the past couple of years. 

There is little in WeBWorK's National Problem Library for developmental math.  College of Idaho has the most useful problems for us, and Robin Cook is evidently in the process of upgrading those problems to take advantage of WeBWorK features developed since she first wrote the problems.

Kenneth Appel has been writing problems for middle school students.  I haven't taken time to investigate, but I believe he has been authoring problems that require students to provide correct answers for one part of the problem before the next part is revealed.

With the MAA taking responsibility for maintaining WeBWorK for the next several years, there is good reason to be optimistic that improvements will continue.  

Yes, we hear complaints from our students about WeBWorK.  But we are using textbook materials we wrote ourselves, and we do not believe that the exercises available in MML fit well enough to justify the cost to students.

Hi!  This is Hungwen Chang from Laney College.  I am interested in learning as much as possible about WeBWorK, having practically no prior experience with it.

Many math faculty members here at Laney use MathXL for algebra classes.  Occasionally some instructors choose to use MyMathLab.  There are also colleagues who use WebAssign for calculus classes.

Wary of possible future fee hike for MathXL, seeking a freely available platform seems necessary.  That's the main reason I am interested in WeBWorK.

Hi this is Ruben Arenas, from East LA College.  Also interested in learning about WeBWork, especially for us in Basic Skills classes.

 

Questions about WeBWorK

Hi Bruce, would it be possible for me to demo one of your developmental math classes that use webwork?

You could go to http://faculty.piercecollege.edu/yoshibw/ka/m125/.  The WeBWorK link at the top will take you to our WeBWorK server, and you can login with username and password student0 (or username and password student1, student2, ..., student9). 

The given webpage also has links to most of the other course materials.  Briefly, students are supposed to read their lesson and answer reading questions in WeBWorK before coming to class.  There are classroom activities (not online), and after class, students do both a set of skills homework in WeBWorK and a set of more involved paper-and-pencil problems.

Questions or suggestions about the WeBWorK discussion group

(Edit this page to add your questions and comments about the discussion group here)

I just learned about the list of the WeBWorK Consultants:  http://webwork.maa.org/wiki/List_of_WeBWorK_Consultants

Sadly, there's no one geographically close to us, but the WeBWorK folks are continuing to train new consultants.

 --Bruce

 

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