DoIT and Business Mathematics Use WeBWorK to Add Math Capabilities to Blackboard
Before summer 2011, faculty and students faced considerable limitations with math-related homework online. "Blackboard was limited to multiple-choice or numerical answers," said Jason Aubrey, the Business Mathematics Coordinator. It just wasn't suited to the kinds of questions he wanted to ask his students.
Aubrey reviewed his share of mathematics software, but was most interested by WeBWorK. "The most impressive thing about the software is that it was built by mathematicians for mathematicians. And it comes with the National Problem Library — a collection of more than 23,000 problems developed by faculty around the country covering math, physics, engineering and more."
A flexible, sophisticated application, WeBWorK is supported by the Mathematical Association of America and the National Science Foundation. WeBWorK's integration with Blackboard began at the University of Rochester, until the developer there moved to other projects. Needing a Java developer, Aubrey brought the code to the Division of IT's Application Development Network (ADN) for help. "ADN has just been fantastic," Aubrey said. "They took the code, rewrote it from the ground up, made the very first project deadline, and have been improving it over the summer."
The DoIT ADN integration of WeBWorK with Blackboard allows faculty and students to use WeBWorK seamlessly in Blackboard, rather than having to visit a separate application. WeBWorK is available for courses ranging from algebra and calculus to linear algebra and complex variables. Sixty students used the WeBWorK/Blackboard integration for their summer 2011 homework. More than 1,200 students will likely use it this fall.
Aubrey "didn't feel good having to charge students to do their homework online," as would be required by similar commercial software titles, costing an average of $50 per student per semester. MU's WeBWorK is hosted here, and as an open-source application, there are no licensing costs. Aside from the staff time involved in development, testing and maintenance, WeBWorK costs MU an estimated $50 per month for the web server.
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