Friday, July 6, 2012

WeBWorK Open Problem Library 3.0

As Djun Kim mentions in his post the National Problem Library, having grown beyond one language and one country, is now the WeBWorK Open Problem Library (or OPL for short).

Adding problems in new languages,  allowing publishers to include their problems in the library and improving the search facilities so that you can find the type of problem you want faster than you can write it yourself are going to required a dedicated effort.

Schemes need to be devised for attaching metadata to the problems (automatically when possible) and software for weeding out near duplicates needs to be developed.  In addition we need procedures for new submissions that both makes it easier to submit your favorite problem or your fix of a problem with errors but also allow for a system of checks and balances that guarantees that the submitted problems meet certain standards.

Since we will probably never all agree on what makes a "high quality" problem we also need some kind of rating mechanism that will help instructors find the problems that fit their course and teaching style.

It's a tall order.

Fortunately a few members of the WeBWorK community have volunteered to take the lead in devising OPL 3.0 which will meet all of these criteria.  They are Djun Kim at University of British Columbia; John Jones, who was involved in creating the original NPL, at Arizona State University; Dick Lane at University of Montana, George Jennings at California State University at Domincan Hills and Tyler Dzuba, a science librarian at the University of Rochester with experience in metadata and digital library design.  Anyone else interested in working on the project should contact one of these leaders.

Some of the early discussion is already taking place on the webwork-devel mailing list
( ).  As consensus emerges summaries will be posted on the wiki in the section for developers for further comments.  (A search of OPL should bring up most of the relevant information.)

Thanks very much Djun, John, Dick, George and Tyler for taking the lead in this important project.
Improving the usefulness of the OPL is one of the most requested features that has come up in our surveys of WeBWorK users.

The library group is just the first team arising from our intent to bring focus to the various active projects being developed within the WeBWorK community:

My next post will concern our attempt to bring focus
to the "internationalization" or as it's called in software speak "localization" effort for WeBWorK.  This involves making the WeBWorK application itself work in a many languages in a convenient and sustainable way and the solicitation of WeBWorK problems written in many languages.

-- Mike

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