Open Education Stories: Creating and reusing problems using OER

Open Education Stories

In this video, Jonathan Verrett and Agnes D’Entremont, instructors in the Departments of Chemical and Biological and Mechanical Engineering (respectively) are improving their students’ learning experience and creating open resources that reduce financial barriers.

They are creating problems for the WeBWork Open Problem Library (OPL). WeBWork is an open-source online homework system for math and science courses that improve learning by providing students with immediate, detailed feedback and the ability to change their answers based on this. WeBWorks also provides students with individualized versions of problems which means that instructors can encourage students to work together; yet each student must develop an answer to his or her own version of the problem. For instructors, WeBWork has an Open Problem library with more than 30,000 problems that can be used in math and an increasing number of problems that are available for other sciences and economics. In BC’s post-secondary sector it is used by many programs and at least five institutions.

For this project, the instructors wanted to create a set of problems for use in engineering programs in BC, North America and worldwide.

Students are involved throughout this project, creating new problems and testing and providing feedback for the problems created. This project received an Open Education Resource grant this year to supplement and extend the UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund grant that the instructors received. With these funds, a student will be hired to increase the number of problems added to the OPL, making them accessible to institutions globally, and begin a process of building up a set of open problems for engineering.

“My hope is that we plant a seed on the open problem library” says D’Entrement. “We’re starting several subjects that don’t exist there now. We’re founding certain subject areas on there. And we have the capacity to build 60 – 80 problems, but what we hope is people will see that and say, “Oh, there are like-minded people… engineers using this. I could build a few problems too. And if 10 people build five problems each, suddenly we have this amazing resource that’s available to all of us.”

This is the second video in a series by BCcampus, that shares stories of how open education is transforming teaching and learning across BC’s post-secondary sector and making education more accessible for all learners. For the original article and to view other videos visit