I have been going through a lot of the clicker-type conceptual physics questions that I have collected over the years from other physics teachers who have been gracious enough to share them, when I came across a sequence of four questions related to the potential and potential energy of a three charge system.

I really like the set of questions, but I’m looking for some feedback from other teachers on how to best use them.

Here’s the system:

Three charges are arranged at the vertices of an equilateral triangle. The charges are labeled q1, q2, q3.
Three charges are arranged at the vertices of an equilateral triangle. The charges are labeled q1, q2, q3.

Three charges form a triangle at points 1, 2 and 3. The electrical potential at q₃ has some value V₃. …

Three weeks in and I’m trying to learn how to steer this ship

I’m getting to the end of the third week of 100% online physics classes. I don’t consider this true online learning, because I think if I had chosen to do this, I would have probably spent close to a year planning how to do it right. What I’m doing this semester is better described as “emergency remote teaching”.

I don’t have a full feeling for how well things are going overall, but I do have a couple of tips to share for those in a similar situation. One tip is a general, sort of big-picture tip. …

Example problem — Box on an incline

Box on an incline with external force P applied to box as it slides down.

Here’s a problem that I once gave on an in-class assessment:

A 2.6-kg block slides down a frictionless incline from point A to point B. A force (magnitude P = 3.4 N) acts on the block between A and B, as shown in the above figure. Points A and B are 2.2 m apart. If the kinetic energy of the block at A is 10 J, what is the kinetic energy of the block at B?

This problem was copied out of a test bank and I believe that I changed all the values for everything except the initial kinetic…

Help students tap into their creative side for giving alternative assessments in online classes.

Infographic explaining how to apply Hooke’s Law
Infographic explaining how to apply Hooke’s Law

This semester in an effort to make my general education physics class have assessments that are slightly-less googleable, I have decided to ask all my students to convert the problems that I am asking them on the assessments into graphical formats such as a comic strip or infographic.

The above figure is my attempt to show an example of what they might do for answering the following question:

A fairly stiff spring has a 2 kg mass hanging from it, and is displaced from its unstretched length. …

When I wrote how I plan to make exam questions un-googleable, what I probably should have said was less googleable. Let’s go with that instead.

Let’s try an example of a problem that is “less googleable”. Here’s what I want to start with:

Problem: Lisa throws a stone horizontally from the roof edge of a 50.0 meter high dormitory. It hits the ground at a point 60.0 m from the building. Find the time of flight.

This problem is actually quite googleable, and I’m quite certain the solution and answer are all over the internet. …

Here’s my challenge

  1. Teaching an online calculus-based physics class, asynchronously.
  2. Using a standards-based assessment and reporting framework.
  3. Trying to have an accessible online class which uses universal design principles while also fairly being able to assess student learning.

The third item means that (for the moment) I’m not planning to have timed assessments. In order to have assessments that have any chance of assessing what students have learned in the course, I’m going to have to come up with ways of assessing their understanding which are not simply physics problems that can be googled.

Here’s my plan, so far

I’m going to modify existing problems by asking not…

Andrew Morrison

Physics professor with research interest in musical acoustics

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