Electrodynamics Refresher Course

Course Electrodynamics and Special Relativity (2nd year bachelor Physics and Astronomy)
Lecturer Eric Laenen
Context Continues on Electricity and Magnetism (1st year), also uses math from first year (Vector Analysis)
Challenge Nearly two weeks are spend on refreshing first year knowledge, instead of delving into the new knowledge and skills
Intervention An online module for refreshing skills and knowledge for those who need it; lecturer can spend more time on new content
Evaluation The refreshment part was limited to the first week, so the lecturer was able to spend more time on new knowledge and skills. Students were very positive.
Related Topics Heterogeneity, Interactive/adaptive course material, Formative Assessments, SOWISORemedial teaching

Interview with Eric Laenen

What was the issue you were facing in your course?
My 2nd year bachelor course Electrodynamics/Special Relativity (ED/SRT) takes place a full year after the preparatory 1st year course Electromagnetism (EM). In my first year of teaching ED/SRT (2015-2016), I had to spend 6 weeks just rehearsing much of EM, including the very basics like vector analysis and electrostatics.  Huub Rutjes constructed a refresher course on these topics, using the SOWISO platform, so that the students could do this, interactively, themselves, the next year (2016-2017). Indeed, I could then spend more time and attention to new things.

Why did you choose this particular approach? Did it solve your (didactical) problem?
This approach was particularly suited to my problem; it is a matter of reviewing the material, and practicing (again) with it. The refresher online course did exactly that, and indeed solved my problem. In fact, the hope is that more of the overlap between EM and ED/SRT can be handled in this way.

What would you change in the next iteration?
Not much, just extend the course to include perhaps magnetostatics, and EM static fields in matter as well. Also, the online course was voluntary; it might be interesting to now issue some formal requirements to the students.

Does the amount of work you had to put into solving the issue (i.e. costs), outweigh the benefits?
For me, yes! All the work was done by Huub Rutjes for this.

Do you recommend this approach to others lecturers?
I would certainly recommend this approach to other lecturers who are faced with a similar issue.

Student evaluation

A small survey amongst students led to the following feedback:

  • An online refresher module is considered to be a very favourable addition (students agree 4.4 on a scale of 5);
  • Students spend about three to four hours on this module;
  • They like the combination of text and video;
  • Students are positive about SOWISO (it is esthetically pleasing) but find that entering equations is still a bit cumbersome;
  • A request for improvement is to have more explanation and feedback for exercises.

Impression of the online refresher module

Watch the videos