Updating the WeBWorK Open Problem Library

Project No.
PI Name
Jeff Holt
University of Virginia

Abstract 1

Updating the WeBWorK Open Problem Library

Presentation Type
Jeff Holt, University of Virginia John Jones, Arizona State University


WeBWorK is an open source online homework system. The system was developed and maintained by volunteers, mostly postsecondary mathematics teachers. A key component of WeBWorK is the Open Problem Library (OPL), a collection of 25,000 problems from various parts of math and other fields. These problems, written by faculty authors, varied in quality, were poorly organized in the WeBWorK system, and included numerous duplicates. As a result, it was difficult for adopters to find the problems they needed in the system.

When the project is complete, it will be much easier for faculty at over 600 institutions to use WeBWorK. This will benefit thousands of faculty and hundreds of thousands of students who use WeBWorK each year.


The goal of this project is to enhance the utility of WeBWorK by improving the OPL. Specifically, we did the following:

(a) Created a top-down taxonomy for cataloging problems, replacing the prior set of ad hoc categories.
(b) Reviewed and reclassified each OPL problem under the new taxonomy.
(c) Grouped duplicate problems together, and rewrote the OPL browser (used to select problems) to display only one problem from each group, reducing clutter.
(d) Improved the OPL browser to make problem selection easier.
(e) Corrected and improved problems as needed.
(f) Formed an OPL editorial board, organized by subject area, to review and classify new problems submitted for inclusion in the future.


We will host a total of seven workshops of experienced WeBWorK users to carry out the work described under Goals above. (Five have already been completed.) Activities included determining the new taxonomy for each subject area, reviewing all problems for reclassification, organizing problems into cohorts with duplicates, and making corrections to problems. Some workshop participants have agreed to serve on the OPL Board, to review new problem submissions and insure that the OPL continues to be well organized.


The end result of this project will be a well organized collection of approximately 30,000 WeBWorK problems. (We are still incorporating recently submitted problems.) There will also be an improved problem browser for searching the OPL, and an OPL Board to insure the ongoing organization of the OPL.

Broader Impacts

The project directly impacts all WeBWorK users, which includes over 600 schools, thousands of teachers, and hundreds of thousands of students. Preliminary assessment indicates that teachers find the updated OPL to be a vast improvement over the previous version.

Unexpected Challenges