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Beth Lindsey, Penn State Greater Allegheny
This issue of the Forum on Education newsletter has the theme “Online Physics Education.” Many of us have observed the trend toward increased online course offerings at our universities. Last summer, the APS offered a workshop on Distance Education and Online Learning in Physics. The workshop report is available on the APS website. At that workshop, participants discussed available resources, the evidence for what works and what doesn’t, and many of the challenges and opportunities facing educators in the online environment.
This newsletter includes five articles in which educators (many of whom participated in the APS workshop) share their experiences with online physics courses or resources. First, Gerd Kortmeyer describes how online courses are delivered at Michigan State University, and the impact that findings from online courses have had on their more traditional counterparts. Andy Rundquist describes how the availability of online materials resulted in his “flipping” the entire physics classroom experience, including more recent work with general education courses in which he is once again rethinking what a “flipped classroom” could mean. Tim Stelzer and Mats Selen provide a thoughtful discussion of their development of online prelectures and reflect on the ways in which higher education and its goals are changing. Mike Schatz describes his experiences developing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in physics.
Although many of us may remain skeptical that the essence of a physics course — incorporating interactive engagement elements and appropriate lab work, and maintaining a strong foundation in inquiry — can be conveyed in an online format, the articles in this newsletter demonstrate that some of our peers have found ways of successfully moving physics courses online, or integrating online and in-class course components. A common thread throughout all of these articles, however, is the effect that experiences with online materials have on instruction in more traditional environments, and the many open questions that remain regarding the most effective way of delivering online materials. Hopefully these articles will give you some insights into what works well in online physics education, what resources are out there, and what questions are currently open for investigation regarding the effectiveness and impact of online physics course resources.
Disclaimer – The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.