Distance Learning Labs for Introductory Physics
This project will develop important laboratory experiments for the mechanics portion of introductory physics courses. The experiments are specifically targeted at distance learning courses where very few physics laboratory opportunities exist. This lack of access to gateway laboratory courses limits students' educational opportunities across all STEM disciplines. This particularly hampers entry to working adults seeking to upgrade their education, students in remote locations, and the mobility-impaired. Equipment costs further limit accessibility for those unable to attend a traditional campus setting. The labs will make use of an inexpensive prototype device and software known as IOLab that allows measurement of a wide variety of physical parameters. The project will measure the learning gains of the labs as well as student attitudes toward them.
There is a tremendous need for research-validated distance laboratory experiences of high quality, especially in physics. This project plans to address this need by using the inexpensive IOLab tool for Newtonian mechanics in the introductory calculus and algebra-based physics courses. The primary goal of the project is to develop, implement, test, and disseminate a complete set of low-cost, research-validated, distance-learning labs. Two secondary goals are to assess student attitudes toward these labs (studying the differences and similarities in these between distance learning and on-campus implementations) and to provide useful input for improvement of the introductory laboratory learning experience for all. The use of the commercial IOLab hardware and software mitigates the cost and technical risk, making widespread adoption among colleges and universities both feasible and likely. The IOLab also makes it feasible to implement a more constructivist learning approach in the entire course, by incorporating hands-on activities prior to the in-class or distance learning lecture portion. Dissemination will include reports on the learning outcomes and pedagogy presented at conferences and it is hoped that eventually the method can be expanded and used beyond the introductory laboratory. The distance learning laboratory approach will serve as a model for other science disciplines and provide a transformational opportunity for making quality physics laboratory experiences available to a large number of students.