Frequently Asked Questions (and complaints)

How do I share a private lesson with someone else?

Private lessons that are not submitted for publication can still be shared with a list of recipients that you provide. There are just three steps to make that happen:

  1. Make sure that each intended recipient has a account.
  2. For the lesson you want to share, go to the lesson edit page and enter the recipient's account name in the field labeled "users can view". If you want to allow the recipient to edit the lesson as well, you may enter the account name into the "users can edit" field instead of the "users can view" field. As soon as you start typing, the form will autocomplete to offer you a list of account names containing the characters you have typed. Be sure to select the account you want from the drop down menu. When you've successfully selected an account, the acount ID number will appear in parantheses next to the account name. If you wish, you may add more names to the list using the "Add another item" button. Don't forget to save the changes using the button at the bottom of the page.
  3. Send the URL for the lesson to the recipient so (s)he knows where to go.

In this way, the private lesson is available to any number of users you wish. However, it does remain private and will not show up on web searches. If at some point you decide you would like the lesson to be made public, you can submit the work to our peer review process following the instructions in our Getting Started Publishing guidelines.

Where is my figure? The image appears correctly in the edit window, but when the lesson is saved, it disappears from the lesson view.

You can't just cut and paste an image into a sciphile lesson. (It would be a security risk to allow that operation.) If you cut and paste directly, the image will show up in the edit window temporarily, but it will be excised when you save the lesson.

To add an image to a sciphile lesson, you need to use the "Add media" icon at the far right of the toolbar. "Add media" also allows you to specify where the image comes from and what copyright restrictions apply.


How do I edit or replace a file I previously uploaded?

When uploading a file using the "Add media" icon , you are asked to provide some information about the file for classification and attribution purposes.

If you decide later to alter any of the metadata about the file, or if you decide to replace the file everywhere it is used, you can do so on the file's edit page. Just go to your account page and click the "My files" tab. A grid of your previously uploaded files will display. You can filter the list according to filename or filetype if you need. When you find the file you're looking for, click on the filename to go to the edit page.

Text formatting is not working! Portions of the text display as italics. Dollar signs are removed.

You probably missed the small type underneath the edit window, which says that dollar signs are special characters.

If you type more than one dollar sign in your edit window, all the text between the dollar signs is interpreted in math mode. In math mode, normal text is rendered in italics.

To type a dollar sign without invoking the math interpreter, precede the dollar sign with a backwards slash: \\\$.

How do I add a footnote to a lesson?

In any edit window, look for the symbol at the right side of the top toolbar. Clicking on this icon inserts a footnote at the current cursor location. Type the text of the footnote and click "OK". The footnote will be marked with the symbol in the edit window. When the page is saved and you return to view mode, an automatically numbered footnote will be inserted as a link to the footnote at the bottom of the page.

To edit a previously inserted footnote, ctrl-click on the icon to bring up the options menu, and select "edit footnote".

How do I insert equations into a lesson?

The equation handler at is based on the LaTex typesetting language. LaTeX is a powerful but somewhat complex language that demands more attention than can be devoted in this brief FAQ. However, there are many good tutorials that will get you started typesetting math formulas. See for example

To introduce a math formula into a lesson, merely delimit the formula with dollar signs (\$) before and after. The editor will interpret anything between the dollar signs as a LaTeX math formula. (To type a regular dollar sign without triggering the LaTeX interpreter, just precede the dollar sign with a backward slash: \\\$.)

To introduce a math equation that sits on its own separate line, delimit the equation with double dollar signs (\$\$).

To introduce an automatically numbered equation, use \begin{equation} before and \end{equation} after.

How do I have my students write their own private lessons on, which I can then grade?

It's fairly straight forward. Here are some tips to get you started.

creating lessons

For your students to submit work to, they must register as members on the signup page. They can check out our Getting Started Membership and Getting Started Authoring guides, as well as our author guidelines, for advice on how to write lessons.

getting access to student work

By default, the lessons your students create are private. In order to make them available to you for grading purposes, they must add your account name to the list of allowed users on the lesson edit page. They can give you read-only access by adding you to the "USERS CAN VIEW" list, or they can give you editing rights by adding you to the "USERS CAN EDIT" list. They should then send you the URL of the lesson. They can email the URL to you separately or they can use your contact form if you have enabled it.

If a student forgets to send you the URL of the shared lesson, you can find it on the "My work" tab of the student's account page. However, if the student has shared more than one private lesson with you, you may not know which one to look at.

grading and commenting

If you have editing rights for the lesson, you can insert comments and grades directly into the lesson. If you have read-only access, you can make your own copy of the lesson using the "copy lesson" button at the top of the page, and then edit and share the copy back with your student.

If you want to prevent students from making changes after the due date, it's best to make your own copy of the lesson when the due date arrives.


If students wish to submit their work for publication on the site, they can do so using the "ask to review" button at the bottom of the lesson. Check out our Getting Started - Publishing guide for details.