Making exam questions ungoogle-able

Andrew Morrison
3 min readAug 14, 2020

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 for “the answer” to a question or even asking for the solution to the question, although both of those components may be a part of what students will be expected to do. Instead, I’m going to ask students to submit 2–3 of the items listed below.

1.) Explore the range of possible values for given quantities.

This idea is I think a really important skill to develop as a scientist or engineer. I think it is something that many engineers and physicists learn to do and use often, but is also not specifically included anywhere in the curriculum. Here are some examples of how this could be explored:

  • What happens when certain quantities go to zero?
  • What happens when certain quantities go to infinity (or very large)?
  • What physical aspects limit the range of possible values for the quantities

2.) What additional multiple representations can be added to the problem?

The following list is my first attempt at compiling a list of alternate representations which can be used to enhance problems:

  • Motion diagrams
  • Graphs
  • Sketch of physical situation
  • Force diagram (free-body diagram)
  • Paragraph description of the physical situation
  • Energy bar charts or LOL diagrams. (I’m pretty sure I heard about LOL from Matt Harding, Kelly O’Shea, and Frank Noschese, but I can’t find my original notes on it.)

--

--

Andrew Morrison

Physics professor with research interest in musical acoustics