Technology

NetID

NetID is a combination of letters and numbers (such as margiro) which, together with a password, is necessary to access most computing resources at SU. See the ITS page on NetID.

MySlice

MySlice is the human resources and financial management software used by SU (it is a customized instance of PeopleSoft by Oracle.) All SU employees use it to access and update their tax and benefit information. Students use it to register for classes. Faculty members and teaching assistants use it to access the class roster and to post final grades. MySlice is the system of record: a students is registered for a class if and only if they appear on MySlice roster.

When viewing class roster, you can click Include photos in list and then View All to have the ID photo of each student displayed next to their name.

Orange SUccess

Orange SUccess is an online advising tool designed to facilitate communication with (and advising/support for) your undergraduate students. Faculty can access it by first logging in to either MySlice or Blackboard and then following a link to Orange SUccess (there is no direct way to log in). The classroster in Orange SUccess has more information about students than MySlice, including higher-quality pictures. Other features include attendance tracking, tools for communicating with students and their advisors, and an appointment manager which syncs with Outlook Calendar attached to faculty email account.

For more information on Orange SUccess see orangesuccess.syr.edu.

Blackboard

Blackboard is the course management system used at SU. Every section of every class, lecture or recitation, has a presence on Blackboard. The Blackboard roster is periodically synced with MySlice, which means it is updated when students add or drop, but with a delay of about 1 day.

Blackboard can be used for many instructional purposes.

  • Send email to the class: click Course Tools->Send Email.
  • Post grades: click Grade Center->Full Grade Center. The grades can be uploaded and downloaded. Be sure to have a local copy in case Blackboard misbehaves.
  • Post course materials, announcements, collect assignments in electronic form (e.g., term papers), collect informal mid-semester feedback.

Your students do not have access to your Blackboard course until you make it available to them: click the “padlock” icon in upper right, or go to Customization->Properties->Make Course Available. (However, you can send email via Blackboard without making the course available.)

To post your syllabus on Blackboard, follow Information->BuildContent->File->Browse My Computer

When the course is made available, the default settings of Blackboard allow students to send email to the entire class. This feature is prone to misuse, and can be disabled by following Customization->Tool Availability->Email->Email Settings (drop down arrow) and unchecking all boxes there. This does not affect your ability to send email.

The primary instructor of a section can give Blackboard access to teaching assistants by entering their NetID under Course Tools->Add Users by Role. This may be useful for keeping grades in one place.

It may be worthwhile to arrange the main navigation buttons (in the left column) to fit your use of Blackboard. When the Edit Mode is On, existing buttons can be deleted using drop-down arrows and new buttons can be added using the + symbol. For example:

  • +Web Link adds a link to outside content (e.g., syllabus posted on department’s webpage).
  • +Tool Link adds a button for a particular tool such as My Grades or Announcements.
  • +Content Area adds a link to a Blackboard page to which you can attach content items, e.g., exam and quiz solutions.
  • +Blank Page adds a page into which HTML code can be pasted: this allows instructors to replicate the standard HTML class webpages within Blackboard.

For more information on Blackboard, see SU ITS Answers.

Email

Your @syr.edu account can be accessed from a web browser as well as from an email client. For the faculty/staff the address is http://exchange.syr.edu. For students it is http://sumail.syr.edu.

The account can forward messages to another email address. However, some students report that not all their incoming mail is being forwarded. Thus, you should still check your @syr.edu daily. In addition, SU advises all instructors to communicate with their students using the @syr.edu account.

Mailing lists

The list addresses are [list name]@listserv.syr.edu where [list name] is one of the following.

Four disjoint lists for faculty:

  • MATH-TTFACULTY: the tenured and tenure-track faculty
  • MATH-NTTFACULTY: non-tenure-track full-time faculty (Holly Grant, Thomas John, Moira McDermott, and Jeff Meyer)
  • MATH-POSTDOCS: postdocs
  • MATH-PTFACULTY: part-time faculty

Combined faculty lists:

  • MATH-ALLFACULTY: all four of the lists above
  • MATH-FTFACULTY: full-time faculty (non-tenure-track, tenured and tenure-track faculty)

Four lists for graduate students:

  • MATH-TAGRADS: All math department teaching assistants (TAs)
  • MATH-MATHGRADS: Graduate students in Mathematics programs only
  • MATH-MATHEDGRADS: Graduate students in Mathematics Education programs only
  • MATH-FELLOWS: Math graduate students on a fellowship

Other:

  • MATH-STAFF: those in 215 Carnegie, except the chairperson
  • MATH-EMERITI: emeriti faculty

Everyone:

  • MATH-EVERYONE: MATH-ALLFACULTY, MATH-STAFF, MATH-TAGRADS, MATH-EMERITI,
    MATH-MATHGRADS, MATH-MATHEDGRADS, MATH-FELLOWS (others by request)

Classroster email

There are two easy ways to send an email to all students in your class.

  • Using Blackboard: go to Course Tools (on the left under Course Management), click Send Email, and choose the target group: usually All Users [which includes TAs] or All Student Users [which does not]. A copy is sent to you automatically. Blackboard supports attachments and rich text content. It automatically prepends something like “MAT.397.M001.FALL20.Calculus III (nnnnn.nnn):” to the email subject.
  • Using MySlice: go to Faculty Center, click the Roster icon on the left, scroll to the bottom, and click Notify All Students. This opens text boxes for subject and body of the message, which is sent to all students via bcc (and to you as well). MySlice does not support attachments or rich text content. It does not add anything to the email subject that you entered.

Webpages

Standardized profile pages for faculty, staff, and graduate students are automatically created by the College Arts and Sciences. Updates to those pages should be submitted to CAS web team using their contact form.

As a hosting solution for personal (SU-related) webpages, SU hosts Expressions, which is a local installation of WordPress, a user-friendly content-management system. This site is based on Expressions.

Accessibility

Printing

Office computers with wired connection are set up with access to a nearby printer. When using your own device with wireless connection, you may be able to access some of the printers in Carnegie using SU Remote Access utility (Windows only). Mac users can print to 304 suite printer using its address 10.230.13.53.

WeBWorK

SU hosts an open-source online homework system WeBWorK. It is not associated with any textbook publisher, however, there are many open-source problems available.

General information about WeBWorK

  1. WeBWorK is free to use
  2. WeBWorK is not affiliated with any publisher. Instructors can compose their homework sets by taking problems from Open Problem Library, or by writing their own. For MAT 183, 221, 222, 284, 285, 286, 331, 414, 485, 521 we already have homework sets from previous semesters.
  3. The number of attempts is unlimited by default, but can be changed (for True/False questions, for example).

Please see below for explanation of common tasks involved in using WeBWorK.

Edit open/due/answers dates for homework sets

Click “Hmwk Sets Editor” in the sidebar on the left, and choose “Edit all sets”. This opens a page where all assignments are listed with
their Open, Due, And Answer Dates.

  • Open = students can see the set and work on it at this time.
  • Due = the students’ work will no longer be accepted for credit after this time.
  • Answer = the answers become available to view.

The above dates apply to the entire “WeBWorK course”. To override them for a group of users (such as a section), proceed as follows.

  1. Go to Instructor Tools.
  2. Filter users (for example, by selecting a section and click Change Display Settings).
  3. Select all users shown after filtering.
  4. Select a homework set.
  5. Click “Edit one set for users” (near the bottom).
  6. Enter new dates for your section which will override the course-wide dates. Check the checkboxes next to modified dates.
  7. Click Save Changes.

Import classroster into WeBWorK

  1. Download the roster from Blackboard Grade Center and import it into Excel. The first four columns A,B,C,D will be Last Name, First Name, UserName, Student ID.
  2. Add a column with the function
    =CONCATENATE(D2,",",A2,",",B2,",C,,,,",C2,"@syr.edu,",C2)
    (second row entry shown)
  3. Using WebWork file manager, create a file roster.lst and paste the contents of the new column into it.
  4. Use the Import Users command under Classlist editor.

This adds students to WeBWork roster, and sets up their login name as NetId and their initial password as 9-digit SUID number. Students can change their password after logging in.

This process can be repeated as new students enroll during the first week of semester. Alternatively, one can add students manually as described below.

Explanation of the Excel formula shown above: the WeBWorK input format is a comma-separated file with fields student_id,last_name,first_name,status,comment,section,recitation,email_address,user_id.
Of these, status is set to “C” (meaning currently enrolled), while comment, section, and recitation are left empty.

If you teach multiple sections of the same course, it is best to have one WeBWorK section to manage. In order to be able to sort the students by section/recitation later, you may want to add columns for section and/or recitation (say, E and F), and use the formula =CONCATENATE(D2,",",A2,",",B2,",C,,",E2,",",F2,",",C2,"@syr.edu,",C2)

Assign homework sets to students

Click “Instructor Tools” in the left sidebar; this opens the main dashboard with users and sets. Select all users in the list of users. Select all (desired) sets in the list of sets. Click “Assign” [selected users to selected sets].

With very large classes (over 250 students) this may fail. In this case you should be able to assign homework to parts of the class at a time. For example, select the students with names beginning with A-K and assign homework to them, then do the same for L-Z.

Add a student to your course

If a new student added your class after the roster was imported, you can either repeat the import process as descrived above, or add a student manually:

  1. Go to “Classlist Editor”, and select “Add [1] student(s)”
  2. Enter Last Name, First Name, Student ID = SUID number, Login Name = NetId (the part of email before @syr.edu), and Email. The fields Section, Recitation, Comment can be left blank unless you are using them.
  3. Select homework sets which will be assigned to this student (normally, all of them).
  4. Click “Add Students”

Add a TA to your course

  1. Go to “Classlist Editor”, and select “Add [1] student(s)”
  2. Enter their information. Whatever you enter as “Student ID” will be used as their initial password. For Login Name, it is convenient to use NetId. The fields Section, Recitation, Comment can be left blank.
  3. After the TA appears on the class list, click the pencil icon next to their name to open Classlist Editor.
  4. Change the permission level from “student” to “ta”

Configure course options

Most options under “Course configuration” can be left as they are. One exception is: depending on your course, you may choose whether “log” should mean “base 10” or “base e”. By default it’s base e.

Limit the number of attempts

By default, students have unlimited attempts on WeBWorK. To change this for a particular problem, go to Homework Sets Editor, select the homework, and enter a number in “Max attempts” in the column Data.

To change the default, for example, to 5 attempts, do the following using the File Manager (note: this requires admin privilege)

  1. Click the up carat on the left side of “templates”.
  2. Select the file course.conf and then the edit button.
  3. At the bottom of the file insert: $problemDefaults{max_attempts} = 5;
    Note the ending semicolon.
  4. Save the file

The change applies to problem sets created after this change, not before.

Export grades and upload to Blackboard

Go to “Scoring Tools”, uncheck “Pad Fields”, select the homework sets to score, and click “score selected sets”. Then download the file (.csv) and open it in Excel.

To import grades into Blackboard, delete unnecessary columns and rows of the file until it has the following form:

Username | Homework 1 | Homework 2 
jqpublic |       7.5  |        8.0

(The Username column is called “Id” in WeBWorK, but it needs to be renamed Username for Blackboard to recognize it.) Save the file, still in the .csv format. In Blackboard, go to Work Offline -> Upload, and upload the file. Any users who do not exist on Blackboard (“admin”, TAs, etc) will be ignored. The scores will be initially imported as text, but this can be changed in Blackboard by using “Edit Column Information”: select “score” as Primary Display, and enter Points Possible.

Give an extension to some student

Go to “Instructor Tools”, select the student’s name in the list, click “View/Edit” [all sets for one user(set dates, scores)]. This opens the page where the new “Due” and “Answers” dates can be entered for that student. Mark the changes by selecting the appropriate checkboxes. Click Submit at the bottom.

Reduced credit period

This is an option to offer extensions with (possibly) reduced credit automatically. It is turned off by default. To set it up, go to “Course Configurations” -> “Problem Display/Answer Checking” and set the Length of Reduced Credit Period (in minutes) and Value of work done in Reduced Credit Period (for example, 0.75 is 75% credit).

You will also need to enable it for each assignment by going to “Hmwk Sets Editor” -> “edit all sets”, and checking all boxes that say “Enable Reduced Credit”.

Note that Reduced Credit Period begins the set amount of minutes before the Due Date. No credit is given after the Due Date.

Create a homework set from library problems

  1. Click Library Browser.
  2. Select a target set or create a new one.
  3. Pick Subject, Chapter, and Section, and click View Problems.
  4. For some subjects (like calculus) the number of problems can be very large. Advanced Search allows you to limit the results to a particular textbook in this case.
  5. Click Add to add a problem to the target set.
  6. After you are done, go to Hmwk Sets Editor to schedule the set

Copy problem sets from one course/section to another

Go to Hmwk Sets Editor (under “Instructor Tools”), then to Export tab. Select the sets to be exported (or just export all). This process creates a .def file for each problem set.

The .def files need to be downloaded with File Manager, so they can be uploaded to another section. It is more convenient to make a single archive of .def files (“Make Archive” in File Manager) and download the archive.

Upload the archive created at step 2 to the target section. It’s unpacked automatically, creating a bunch of .def files.

The .def files are imported using Hmwk Sets Editor, Import tab.

Now the homework sets will appear under Homework Sets, with the same begin/end dates as they had in the first section.

It’s important to note that .def files do not contain the problems themselves, only links/references to them. If the references are to the Open Problem Library, they are all that’s needed. But if the sets use locally stored files, those files will need to be copied over too, following the same archive – download – upload process. The problem files have .pg extension.

To have a complete archive of your homework, export homework sets as mentioned above, then use the File Manager to select all .def files and folders with .pg files, and click Make Archive. Download this archive (extension .tgz) and keep in a safe place.

Troubleshooting

Problem Solution
A student cannot log in. Check if the student is present in WeBWorK roster (shown by “Classlist Editor”). If the student is not there, they need to be added in order to be able to log in: this process is described above. If the student’s name is on the roster, try to login to WeBWorK using their credentials (NetId and SUID), for example in a private window of your browser. Often you will find that the login works, which means the student made a mistake entering it. Make sure they are entering their login name as it was set up by you (normally, in lowercase). Both login and password fields are case sensitive. If the student set their own password and forgot it, you can give a new password using Classlist Editor -> Password.
“Request-URI Too Long” error appears when assigning homework problems to the class using Instructor Tools. This happens with very large classes, when concatenating the usernames of all the students results in a longer string than the web server supports.
Solution: assign homework to parts of the class at a time. For example first select the students with names beginning with A-K and assign homework to them, then do the same for L-Z. About 250 students at a time will work.

Questions about WeBWorK can be addressed to Leonid Kovalev.

Creating WeBWorK assignments

You can using existing problems from the Open Problem Library (OPL), modify OPL problems, or write your own from scratch. All these are explained below.

Picking problems from the OPL

  1. Click Library Browser. Use either Create a New Set or add problems to an existing one (by selecting Target Set from the dropdown).
  2. Select Subject, Chapter, and Section. The option “Max Shown” can be set to “All” to display all available problems for that section.
  3. Click View Problems
  4. Click Add for each problem you wish to be added. There is no “Remove”; if you change your mind about adding a problem, it will need to be removed later.
  5. To reorder problems or remove some of them, click Edit Target Set which brings you to homework set editor. Another way to open this editor is to click Hmwk Sets Editor in the menu, find the set you wish to edit, and click the number in the column “Edit Problems”.

Modifying OPL problems

You may want to adjust the notation or terminology in a problem, add a hint, etc. This can be done by creating a local copy using Problem Editor.

There are two ways to open Problem Editor. One is from Homework Sets Editor, by clicking “Edit it” under a problem.

Edit a problem

The other is from the set preview:

Edit problem 2

To edit a problem, you need to create a new version of it, which will be stored locally. Click NewVersion:

New version

The location offered by default is not optimal: problems end up being disorganised. I use a path of the form local/setHomework_1-5/filename.pg where Homework_1-5 is the name of homework set. This naming convention is not necessary, but it is consistent with what WeBWorK editor suggests when creating a new problem.

New Version 2

After making your edits, choose Update tab and Take Action, which both saves the file and displays the new version in another tab, so you can check that it works.

Saving

Creating problems from scratch

The Homework Set Editor, which is used for reordering or deleting problems from a set, can also be used to add them. Check “Add N blank problem template(s)” and Save Changes:

add blank

Then Edit it to bring up a Problem Editor with pre-filled template of a WeBWorK problem (something about the value of pi). The structure that it shows is useful but the following example may be closer to reality.

DOCUMENT();
loadMacros("PGstandard.pl", "MathObjects.pl");
TEXT(beginproblem());
###### Context, variables, flags
Context("Numeric");
Context()->variables->add(t=>"Real"); # if you want a variable other than x
Context()->flags->set(reduceConstants=>0); # don't make 1/3 into 0.3333333
###### Random parameters and correct answer(s)
$a = random(2, 10, 2); # random number from 2 to 10, with step 2: so, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10
$b = random(2, 11, 1); # random integer from 2 to 11
$ans1 = Compute(" -1/($a*t-1/$b-$a^2) "); # correct answer
###### Text of the problem
Context()->texStrings;
BEGIN_TEXT
Use separation of variables to obtain the solution to the following initial value problem.
$PAR
\(y' = $a y^2 \) and \( y($a)= $b \)
$PAR
Answer: \(y(t) =\) \{ ans_rule(40) \}
END_TEXT
Context()->normalStrings;
###### Answer comparison
ANS($ans1->cmp);
ENDDOCUMENT();

Explanation:

  • Scalar variable names are prefixes by dollar sign in Perl. Hence the use of \( \) delimiters for inline TeX formulas. Displayed formulas use \[ \].
  • $PAR is for paragraph break. There is also $BR for line break.
  • Perl will simply substitute variables like $a with their values in TeX formulas. Notice that $a is not allowed to be 1, to avoid the equation “y’ = 1 y^2”. Watch out for superscripts: x^{$a} is safer than x^$a as the latter will break when $a has multiple digits.
  • To have multiple answer boxes, use \{ ans_rule(40) \} multiple times. The number here is the number of characters in the box. The answers are checked in their order of appearance by ANS($ans1->cmp); ANS($ans2->cmp); and so on.
  • The syntax of Compute(" -1/($a*t-1/$b-$a^2) "); is not TeX; it is closer to calculator notation. The formula, entered as a string, is parsed into a MathObject. There is some flexibility in this syntax: powers can be $a^2 or $a**2, exponentials exp(t) or e^t.

The presentation of correct answer (which students can see afterwards) also merits consideration. The flag reduceConstants=>0 is used above to avoid turning fractions into decimals in the correct answer. But on the other hand, it will leave $a^2 unevaluated, e.g., it will be 5^2. Here is a more careful approach, where instead of $ans1 = Compute(" -1/($a*t-1/$b-$a^2) "); we do some preliminary computations to get a nice form of the answer, without fractions.

$num = $b;
$A1 = $a**2 * $b;
$A2 = $a*$b;
$ans1 = Compute(" $num/($A1 - $A2*t) ");

These preliminary computations are done at Perl level, so the exponentiation has to be ** and division is best avoided unless the result is assured to be integer (otherwise an ugly float may appear in the correct answer).

Once you are done, save the problem with NewVersion:
Saving new
This time WeBWorK suggests the location following the sensible pattern /local/setName/ but you will want to change the filename to something other than blankProblem.

Subsequent changes, if needed, are made using Update, as when modifying OPL problems.