Since Spring, 2000 the Department has been using WeBWorK software for homework assignments in some lecture sections of the Math. 151-254 calculus sequence, as well as the Math. 161-263 accelerated calculus sequence. WeBWorK is a web-based software technology which generates individually customized homework problems from templates provided by the instructor and delivers them over the worldwide web.
Each WeBWorK problem set is individualized (each student has a different version of each problem, for example the numerical values in the formulas may be slightly different). The student prints out and solves the problems with paper and pencil, logs onto the Internet, using any computer with a network connection, and enters their answers into a web browser. The WeBWorK system responds telling the student whether an answer (or set of answers) is correct or incorrect and also records whether the student answered the question correctly or incorrectly. The student is free to try a problem as many times as he or she wishes until the due date. A key educational benefit of this system is that if a student gets a wrong answer, the student gets immediate feedback while the problem is still fresh in their mind. The student can then correct a careless mistake, review the relevant material before attacking the problem again, or seek help (frequently via e-mail) from friends, the TA or the instructor.
The system is extremely flexible, accepting a wide variety of mathematical notations in the students' answers, using syntax similar to many graphing calculators and computer algebra systems. Since the problems are individualized, students are encouraged to collaborate on assignments, yet each student must develop an answer to his or her own version of the problems. The system also provides instant feedback to the instructor. The instructor's web pages in WeBWorK provide immediate status reports on the progress of each student as well as detailed statistics on overall progress by the class. The instructor and TAs can use this information to customize lectures and recitations.
WeBWorK was developed by faculty at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Rochester, and has been in use there in virtually all calculus classes since Autumn, 1996. It has also been used extensively in most calculus classes at Indiana University since Autumn, 1999. Since then it has been used on in over twenty institutions, including Columbia, Harvard, Rutgers, Michigan, McGill, Dartmouth, Virginia and Utah, among others.