Online support for our introductory Physics laboratories PHY2048L and PHY2049L.
After completion of the basic reform of the old laboratories associated to the calculus-based Physics I and II under the support of our NSF Grant, del Barco and Elena Flitsyan have focused their efforts in a further/deeper renovation of the instructional laboratories of these courses (PHY2048L and PHY2049L). In particular, the project consists in using Webassign as a platform to support the laboratory experiments, including pre-, post- and in-lab activities, quizzes and automatic grading. In preparation for this del Barco attended the 2011 Webassign Users Group Workshop, where he acquired the technical knowledge necessary to undertake this very innovative project, which finds parallels in just a few institutions worldwide.
Since its pilot implementation in the Summer 2011, the project has been extended to all calculus-based physics laboratories and represented a tremendous success. A formal assessment/evaluation is currently being performed and the results will be submitted for publication shortly. Two of our group graduate students, James Atkison and Alvar Rodriguez have been awarded the AAPT 2012 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for their invaluable assistance in this initiative
The way it works: Students must enroll in the online lab section which is created in www.webassign.com for each course. Students must complete the following set of activities:
Before the lab:
- Pre-Lab (20%): Available a week before the lab day and due the day before the day of the lab. These assignments are designed to help prepare students by providing them with questions related to the coming lab. Completion of the pre-lab is a requisite that students must fulfill in order to be allowed to do the experiment. If the pre-lab is not completed in time, the rest of the lab activities will not be taken into account and the grade for all activities of that lab will be zero. Pre-labs are submitted and graded individually, although group work outside the lab hours is encouraged. The obligation to complete the pre-lab activity the day before the experiment ensures that students come prepared to class, which has always been a point of concern in previous years. The instruction manual for the lab is available in Webassign as an ebook, and students must read the corresponding section each week and get prepared for the in-lab activities before the lab.
During the lab: (In-lab activities are only accessible in Webassign during the lab session)
- Demo Problem (20%): Conducted at the beginning of the lab, these assignments ask students to solve a representative problem selected from the course textbook and, afterwards, conduct and analyze a brief experiment to represent the situation studied in the problem. This is a group based activity, and a single grade is shared among the group members.
- Lab Report (20%): Students are asked to conduct a series of experiments and then provide data and answer questions in the Webassign interface. This is the other group based activity, and all work for this assignment must be completed before students leave the lab.
- Performance (15%): An assessment of individual students’ efforts and behavior is provided by the lab instructor. The instructor pays special attention at: a) participation and group collaboration; and, b) the level of preparation that each student demonstrates during the lab activities. Proper prior preparation for the lab activities (i.e. e-book) is essential.
After the lab:
- Homework (25%): Available just after the lab day and due a day before the next lab, students must complete the post-lab activity in Webassign. It consists on a continuation of the In-Lab work that may ask the student to repeat calculations done in the lab report on new sets of data. It will also contain other questions. Post-labs are submitted and graded individually.