IT News

The Project Journey: WeBWork Math

By Anna T. McFadden, Director of Academic Engagement and IT Governance


Above: Tom Salzman, director of the WCU School of Stage and Screen, chairs the Academic Technology
Advisory Committee that ranked the WeBWork Math project number one in priority out of seven projects.

The mathematics and computer science department at WCU was one of the first to go through the IT governance and prioritization process. Project sponsor Geoff Goehle and Department Head Tuval Foguel learned first-hand what was involved …

The project request process began with a meeting with IT governance staff members Anna McFadden, Barry Bidwell and Brandy Henning. On behalf of the department, Goehle and Foguel requested to implement WeBWork, an open source software that individualizes homework problems for students and allows them to master concepts in math. This meeting resulted in a conversation with the Data Stewardship and Security Committee to determine where the FERPA data (student names and grades) should be stored. The committee determined that the data would be more secure if stored on a server in the WCU datacenter rather than on a department server.

The governance staff then created a project proposal summary and a total cost of operations document. In these documents, the project’s alignment to WCU’s strategic plan was noted—such a project engages students to be successful in math, helping retention and improving grades in courses such as Calculus. The work of IT was determined—to load the software on a Linux server and set up access for a department administrator. The department’s role was defined as providing training for other faculty and setting up faculty accounts.

These documents were then forwarded to the Academic Technology Advisory Committee. Of seven projects, the committee ranked this one number one in priority and forwarded that recommendation to the Information Technology Council (ITC) who concurred with the ranking. Work on the project began before the winter break with a project definition meeting between the sponsors and IT; the system was ready to go prior to the start of classes.

Describing his experience with the project process, Goehle said, “Everyone involved with the project worked very hard to make sure it overcame administrative obstacles and together we managed to implement WeBWorK at WCU in time for the current semester.”

Goehle noted that WeBWorK has already found use in three different mathematics courses. “Students appreciate the instantaneous feedback WeBWorK provides, as well as the opportunity to earn full credit on every homework problem,” he added.

Neil Torda, IT’s Linux systems administrator, shared these thoughts about his experience: “It was great to be able to work as a team with faculty members to put together a service that the students of WCU are able to use on a daily basis. Being able to work directly with Geoff made it easy for us to get this project completed so that the students could start using it right away.”

Learn more about how to request an IT project