An online homework system for a massive open online Calculus One course designed to help students continually work within their proximal development.

The Need

Currently, there are no online unrestricted Calculus courses that are for all students. Many students learn Calculus in a classroom setting and cannot advance through their own schedule and at their own pace. Online courses are growing steadily throughout the US which is promoted through college campuses as well as software such as Khan Academy and Coursera. To increase the advances in STEM education, more advanced courses are necessary to match the intellectual capabilities of the future student.

The Technology

The Ohio State University researchers, led by Dr. James Fowler, developed an online homework system for Calculus One, a 15-week course on Coursera. Calculus One uses randomly generated calculus exercises provided by MOOCulus using the Khan framework. The difficulty level of the questions is based on an evaluation of how the student interacts with the exercise platform. This way, easy questions are more quickly bypassed, and the student is always working within their zone of proximal development. Unlike the Khan framework, MOOCulus will repeatedly give the same problem until the estimate of the student's competency reaches a certain threshold. Also, MOOCulus always has a complete solution available for the student, including step-by-step instructions revealed with a hint button. The software's back-end code can be used for courses other than mathematics and is also Khan Academy compatible. The concept has been established and is launched on Coursera.

Commercial Applications

  • Massive online open course (MOOC) problem generation
  • Coursera course integration
  • Adaptive learning tools
  • Homework exercises for students


  • Randomly generated math problems
  • Algorithms used to estimate student's competency
  • Back-end Oauth code allows the app to receive logins from Coursera for future MOOC

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