Tips From Past Instructors

The following are some useful tips provided by past instructors:

  • Convince your students to ALWAYS use the “preview answers” button. This will save them (and you) a lot of trouble.
  • No matter what you tell them, if you give your students unlimited attempts on each problem, some of them will resort to guessing instead of (or before) thinking.
  • Convince your students to visit the Student Information section of this wiki; there is plenty of useful information for them there.
  • Careful when selecting new problems from the library:
    • sometimes, the answers are just wrong
    • they are right sometimes, and wrong others, depending on random parameters (eg: parity of an exponent can change the shape of a region)
    • sometimes, the problem is fine but requires techniques not yet covered in our syllabus (eg: needing integration by parts on an integral prior to learning how)
  • Common issues that can arise when Webwork checks answers:
    • Fractional powers of negative numbers can cause errors, since Webwork computes fractional powers using logarithms.
    • Problems involving implicit differentiation can be incorrectly marked as wrong: if the final answer is to be written in terms of both x and y, Webwork will usually check simply whether the student's answer matches the correct answer as a function of x and y; however there is sometimes another way to write the correct answer using the implicit relation between x and y.
      • Workaround: Pick a set of points which satisfy the original implicit equation and use the “test_points” parameter in fun_cmp to force Webwork to only compare the two derivatives on those points. See for details.
  • If you want to give more points to students who get answers correct in fewer attempts, use the Ind column of the scoring totals/student progress data. If not, you may want to inform your students that it does not matter how many attempts they need to get a problem correct, as long as they get it right before they run out of attempts and before the due date.
  • Students will email you far more often then they would were you not using Webwork. Many will email to ask for help with particular problems since Webwork makes this convenient for them. Others will email to tell you Webwork must be making a mistake because it tells them they are wrong although they know they are correct. Find a way to deal with this.
  • Remember, Webwork does not replace you or your office hours; it is (usually) not a tool to teach your students. Rather, it is a feedback mechanism for your students. Webwork lets them immediately diagnose what they are and are not understanding; these gaps in understanding must be filled the old-fashioned way (e.g., during office hours). Webwork also allows you, the instructor, to gauge precisely what your students are and are not understanding; learn to take advantage of the “Statistics” and “Student Progress” features.
tips_past_instructors.txt · Last modified: 2010/05/06 00:05 by rthomas
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