Professor’s Expertise Benefits Online Mathematics Platform

Students often take grading for granted. Professors sometimes must sift through hundreds of assignments per week. On top of their lectures and open office hours, they must take time to grade each assignment quickly and fairly. Jonathan Duncan, a mathematics professor, is making homework easier for teachers and fair for students through WeBWorK, a software platform for homework. For the past seven years he has been part of its software development and contributing to the coursework library.

WeBWorK is a homework platform for creating and distributing personalized assignments on the Web. In the past, students waited weeks to receive grades, but now their results are immediate. WeBWorK keeps students accountable by generating different homework problems for each student; there is no temptation to cheat when students' assignments are unique.

Professors can access grade books and course statistics in Moodle, an open-source course management system. It also provides discussion forums where students and teachers can post properly formatted math equations. Moodle allows teachers and students to check grades and organize classes, while WeBWorK provides the link between homework and grades. By automating the tedium of paperwork, teachers focus more on the student learning experience.

Walla Walla University's Mathematics Department started using WeBWorK in 2007. Today, WWU hosts WeBWorK for institutions like La Sierra University and many high schools in the western United States.

Duncan, a WWU mathematics graduate and now Mathematics Department chair, has been the primary source of development for the Moodle-WeBWorK bridge. Though he began contributing problems during his graduate studies at Indiana University in 2000, it wasn’t until 2007 that he began the software development. Duncan now provides ongoing service to keep up with the frequent updates to the learning platforms. For more than a decade, he has been contributing hundreds of free math and computer science problems to WeBWorK. These assignments are useful complements to the Mathematical Association of America's official library of coursework.

For more information about this service, send an email to Duncan at

April 15, 2014 / Walla Walla University