Physics for beginners/Introduction
This mini-course consists of 128 pages of reading from a book by Raspanti, accompanied by 68 true-false questions whose purpose is to encourage students to at least skim the book. The 68 questions represent only half of 136 questions in the current bank, arranged in true-false pairs to ensure that the probability of any given statement being true is 50%. The presence of this larger bank has been observed to encourage interactions between students as they go through the book in groups of two or three. Since pairs of students will likely see different questions for the same reading, they will have reason to discuss the content of the question, and not just "the answer". By asking only a small number of questions, the intent is to turn the task of reading (or at least skimming) the book onto a pleasant and easily winnable game. Students should also be required to reach only a threshold level and be allowed to repeat each chapter as often as they wish. All this will suppress efforts to create cheat-sheets in an effort to complete what might seem like a mundane task with minimal effort. If this experiment is successful the model could be repeated for other OER licensed reading materials.
How to enroll in Physics for Beginners on MyOpenMath.com edit
One way is to register with as a new student at:
Then enroll in course ID 68921. You do not need an enrollment key. That should take you to the following URL:
Why I chose Physics for Beginners edit
I teach a college-level a conceptual physics class populated by students with a wide diversity of interests, ranging from high schools students to retired adults. The level of interest ranged from college science majors to those taking the course only because a science course was a requirement for their degree program. The available w:Open educational resources OER textbooks struck me as either watered down courses for biology and pre-med students, or beefed up high school courses. Since students who take physics in high school tend to have a strong interest in math and science, none of the options seemed attractive. I found Raspanti's book on the web, liked it, and helped him license it CC-BY-NC-SA. But the tastes of a physics professor may not match those of my students. Let's find out!
MOM offering of Physics for Beginners is intended as a self-paced mini-course that would serve only a portion of a typical one semester course. It also has a peculiar feature: The student is asked to read 128 pages and answer 68 questions that can only be described as being of very low quality.
Advice to students edit
- Do not hesitate to guess the answer to a question. Your instructor is instructed to allow students to miss a certain number of questions at zero penalty, and is discouraged from even assigning a grade for this minicourse. Instead, give all who score above a certain threshold the same grade. It would also be wise to allow students to repeat quizzes as often as it takes to reach this threshold. For that reason, I eventually plan for each section to end with randomly selected questions (see footnote.)
- Do not hesitate to skim or even skip material that you don't understand. In contrast to most forms of prose, poetry, or even textbooks, scientific literature is full of material the reader does not care about. Technical papers are extremely difficult to read, and the first thing a researcher does upon seeing a paper is to decide whether or not to read it. There were many paragraphs in Physics for beginners that I just skipped. And I wouldn't have enjoyed the book if I didn't skip those sections.
On the virtues of "low quality" questions edit
This is an obvious question with lots of complicated answers.
- The main purpose of these questions is to ensure that every student at least looks at the entire textbook before it is discussed in class. Searching for answers might enhance your skills at skimming complicated articles. At the very least, a superficial reading gives you familiarity with the terminology of a subject (sometimes called "learning the buzz words".) While a casual reading of this book is not likely to give you any understanding of the Bohr model, you will at least know that there is something called the Bohr model of the atom, and that people who attempt to teach quantum physics like to talk about it. A small fraction of these questions are valid probes into your understanding of the material, and the occasional question might even inspire you to think about the subject. But don't forget that you "own" each question, and have every right to guess the answer and move on with no further thought.
- But the real reason for this focus on "low quality" questions is that every online question is of "low quality" if you can answer it using the internet. And every question can be answered using the internet. As they say, if God gives you lemons, make lemonade! We can greatly reduce the cost of higher education if we can find the way to deliver a portion of that knowledge online. I am a strong advocate of making education a face-to-face experience between human beings. But the most effective way to reduce the cost of education is to deliver a portion of that education online at zero cost. And if people are online, they have access to answers that any question a teacher can think of. For more thoughts along those lines visit these pages:
The following collection of images seem suitable for authors of physics questions on MyOpenMath:
- At the moment the 68 True/False questions are really 136 questions grouped in True/False pairs, with only one of the pair randomly selected to appear on any given quiz. If you repeat a quiz with two questions, at least one of the questions is likely to be different the second time around. Oddly, my we compensate for the low quality of 68 questions by taking from such a large bank of low-quality questions so vast that students will not be tempted to memorize the answers!