Careless Programmers Make Frustrated Students

closeThis post was published 13 years 4 months 12 days ago. A number of changes have been made to the site since then, so please contact me if anything is broken or seems wrong.

If you’re a programmer of JavaScript, and you work for a company that develops online courses, please, please, please make sure you coordinate with your content team. Really. I’ve come across so many errors having to do with badly-programmed little “quizzes” within courses that could have been solved by better communication between the content and interactivity teams.

Take an example from this past weekend: A “self-check” quiz (not graded, just helps students learn the material) asks that the user convert a series of measurements from one unit to another. It explicitly specifies that the numbers are not to have commas in them. Then, having dutifully entered comma-free answers, the user clicks the button to check their answers, and finds all the questions marked wrong.

Why? The script was checking for answers with commas. And it marks a decimal 0.04 wrong if you attach that first zero (it wants “.04”). Strict grading like this leaves no room for a student’s possible variation upon the convention. So strip out your commas, use parseInt() and parseFloat(), and make sure things work well. Don’t frustrate your students; they already have enough to worry about.


I am an avid technology and software user, in addition to being reasonably well-versed in CSS, JavaScript, HTML, PHP, Python, and (though it still scares me) Perl. Aside from my technological tendencies, I am also a theatre technician, sound designer, violinist, singer, and actor.


  1. Difficult to understand as I’m personally not a programmer but I’m sure the rest of the world understood it 😉 Good blog.

  2. Thanks! Usually I use this as a dumping ground for complaints I have about certain companies, or problems I come across, but I’ve occasionally gotten responses.

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