Documentation:WeBWorK/What is WeBWork

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What is it?

WeBWork logo.png

WeBWorK is a free open source Perl-based system for delivering individualized homework problems over the web. It gives students instant feedback as to whether or not their answers are correct. By providing students with immediate feedback as to the correctness of their answers, they are encouraged to make multiple attempts until they succeed. By individualizing problems, cheating is discouraged. By providing instructors with real-time statistics, lesson plans can be customized to better serve students.

WeBWorK is developed and supported by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and comes with a Open Problem Library (OPL) of over 20,000 homework problems.

WeBWorK is used successfully at over 240 colleges and universities from large research institutions to small teaching colleges. WeBWorK has been developed and maintained by mathematicians since 1994, with the overarching goal of always providing the mathematical community with the most robust, flexible, and mathematically capable online homework system possible.

WeBWork at UBC

An instance of WeBWorK has been used by the Mathematics Department at UBC since it was piloted in Fall 2009. Since then, it has become widely used in the Mathematics Department, the Statistics Department, and has also been adopted in other departments across campus. The current instance is deployed in a high availability environment using UBC IT infrastructure, providing a reliable service to all faculties across UBC.


WeBWorK is widely used in math courses around the world, but its adoption in statistics has been limited. One reason is that while WebWork implements a broad range of arithmetic and calculus-type operations, it has little support for statistical concepts such as probability distributions or statistical models.

The WeBWorKiR (WeBWorK integrating R) project offers a solution in the form of integration between WeBWorK and the statistical computing software R. The open source software R is extremely popular in statistical research, analysis, and education. It provides a huge range of operations for statistical computation and graphics. The WeBWorKiR project has two main goals: (i) to allow WeBWorK to communicate with R and (ii) the creation of a large collection of homework questions for use in undergraduate instruction in statistics. With the WeBWorKiR project, instructors can use R code in their WebWorK problems to generate data, perform analyses, and create figures.

WeBWorKiR has been developed in the Department of Statistics since June 2012, with the funding from Teaching and Learning Improvement Fund. It has been used in a number of second- and third-year Statistics courses at UBC, reaching around 3000 students so far. The aim is that problems created and tested on students through the WeBWorKiR project are made available to all educators via WeBWorK's Open Problem Library.

If you are an instructor, please look at the authoring guide for information on writing WebWork questions that make use of R. If you are a WebWork system administrator, you can find setup information in our installation guide.