Filling the Gaps

Edward Van Keuren (Physics) · Round 1

This ITEL project on the development and implementation of short online tutorials aimed to fill in gaps in knowledge and ability as needed for individual students. These web modules consisted of three parts: pretests, interactive applications to teach or review the topic, and post-tests. The pre- and post-tests were used both for assessment of the effectiveness of the instruction as well as indicators of whether the students have mastered the concepts. The interactive applications were based primarily on existing online material. Topics were chosen to be ones for which numerous faculty had reported student difficulties, and included complex numbers, Fourier transforms and Taylor series expansions. Many of these topics were enabling tools for the main course subject and involved concepts that students would normally encounter in multiple courses in the physics curriculum.

I've gained a clearer idea of how to put together instructional material. […] I feel that just the process of writing down specific learning objectives helped me be more specific and clear in each slide and assessment question.

Edward Van Keuren

Led by Edward Van Keuren and Mike Hull of the Physics Department, a team of faculty developed and used tutorials in a number of courses in the physics majors' curriculum, including PHYS-151 Mechanics, PHYS-152 Electromagnetic Phenomena, PHYS-153: Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, and PHYS-443: Electrodynamics and Optics. The project sought to address whether short modules covering a limited number of topics would improve student learning in individual courses as well as the overall curriculum. Their aim was to create the modules to free up class time that would have been spent on review and to even out the level of students in some of the more basic techniques needed to master course material.

Four of the modules developed for this project were tested and made available to other faculty members in fall 2014. Along with the creation of the four modules, this project had the positive outcome of developing the tools; the main effort in creating modules is now just building the content. Faculty members working on this project plan to continue to develop and expand upon the Filling the Gaps modules.

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