Every semester, students across the country are forced to choose between textbooks and life essentials. Dr. Kevin Knudson, Chair of the University of Florida’s Department of Mathematics, and Jason Nowell, a PhD candidate in the same department, have launched a project to help change that.
Dr. Knudson and Nowell became tired of seeing students pay $60-100 per semester for textbooks and homework platforms. In the summer of 2016, Nowell attended a workshop hosted by Ohio State University on Ximera, a back-end technology for developing online courses. After attending the workshop, Dr. Knudson and Nowell decided to begin building the system at the University of Florida in order to replace paid homework systems like WebAssign and MyMathLab; they named it Xronos.
Dr. Knudson and Nowell began piloting Xronos for MAC2311 in Fall 2017; now, Xronos is being utilized in MAC1105, MAC1140, MAC2311, and MAC2312. In the future, they hope to bring it to MAC1147, MAC1114, and MAC2313. Feedback for Xronos is consistently positive: it’s better at recognizing correct answers than its competitors because its engine checks the mathematics behind answers rather than just looking for character matching. Students have described it as “easy-to-use,” “direct,” and “painless.”
Nowell sifted through tens of thousands of lines of Ximera’s code to decouple it from Ohio State University and build an online homework platform that suits University of Florida mathematics courses. Xronos utilizes the Ximera engine, but its platform serves as a model for other institutions who hope to acquire their own platforms. The Xronos code is much more easily adaptable than the original Ximera code, making it an immense service to the open education community.