Interactive and Mobile Physics Learning Tools

When it comes to learning complex concepts, there are some methods that are especially helpful for students. Using visual cues can help the students connect what they are learning in more of a concrete way, while interactive components can test their knowledge as they progress through the course.

For Medical Physics professor, Jonathan Sharp, combining those learning techniques into an open educational resource has made for a learning package that is unique in its scope. Sharp worked with a team of subject matter experts from not only the University of Alberta, but also from the University of Calgary, Lethbridge and Saskatchewan. The team also includes a graphics designer, a lead programmer, and several students to tackle the ambitious project.

Funded by Campus Alberta’s Open Educational Resources Initiative, the learning tools are designed to provide first year college and university physics students with an interactive method of learning. The learning tools can be accessed on mobile devices, and present physics concepts and processes through animation and graphics. Students can interact with the graphics, aiding in their retention of the information.

“What we’re trying to do is combine modern web technologies with physics concepts, which has not really been done before,” says Sharp. He also says it’s been an interesting and challenging process working together with individuals from many different fields — from the physics side of things to the graphic art side of things. “It takes a bit of communication to get on the same page because we’re thinking in different ways,” he says.

But in the end, he believes that the varied skills within the team will make for a very strong end product. Other similar projects might see a physicist conducting everything, he says, but then there could be gaps in their skill sets.

The team is also creating different levels of content within the resource for different levels of student so that as many students as possible can benefit from using the information. And as an open resource, the information can be used and adjusted by instructors who want to use it. “Everything is open source, so they can take the code and do whatever they like with it. So, because it’s using standard web technologies, all it requires is someone who knows how to code for the modern web, and they can do it.”