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Global Perceptions on the Use of WeBWorK as an Online Tutor for Computer Science

Olly Gotel, Christelle Scharff, Andrew Wildenberg, Mamadou Bousso, Chim Bunthoeurn, Phal Des, Vidya Kulkarni, Srisupa Palakvangsa Na Ayudhya, Cheikh Sarr and Thanwadee Sunetnanta, IEEE Frontier in Education (FIE), Saratoga Springs, New York, October 22-25, 2008.



Numerous (mostly commercial) web-based systems for the assessment of programming assignments have emerged in the past few years to support the teaching and learning of programming fundamentals. WeBWorK, an initiative led by the University of Rochester to support Mathematics education, is unusual in that it is an open-source and extensible system. Since 2005, collaborators at Pace University and Cornell College have been working to adapt WeBWorK to extend its reach to Computer Science. This paper reports on a global experiment undertaken with Computer Science students and faculty from three continents based on the use of WeBWorK. Students in the US, Cambodia, India, Senegal and Thailand were presented with a set of programming exercises in a controlled environment. The intention was to explore the impact of diverse cultures, distinct first languages and differences in prior everyday exposure to the Internet and use of pedagogical tools on the usability and perceived value of such tools in Computer Science education. The study poses an important question with regard to the global uptake of everyday and typically US-centric educational technology. It provides findings likely to be of value to academic institutions interested in its adoption and companies interested in its commercialization.
You know we're constantly taking. We don't make most of the food we eat, we don't grow it, anyway. We wear clothes other people make, we speak a language other people developed, we use a mathematics other people evolved and spent their lives building. I mean we're constantly taking things. It's a wonderful ecstatic feeling to create something and put it into the pool of human experience and knowledge. -- Steve Jobs, Rolling Stone, November 1983.