Syllabus for Spring 2011 Online Course

PHYS 101
Concepts of Force & Motion

I. Course Description

This online class is an actvity and project based introduction to the concepts of motion and forces in physical systems. The course is designed so that non-science/math students will develop scientific literacy as they complete experiments that explore the nature of velocity, acceleration, and force. The hands-on approach emphasizes collaborative learning within small groups, leading to the completion of student-centered projects that explore real-world phenomena.

In this course, everything you learn will be built up from direct observations that you will make in class.  You will help design and carry out experiments, participate in online discussions, and also carry out your own personal observations, predictions, and reflections.  Your ability to perform observations, take data, analyze results, and write reports will be enhanced by the use of computer-based sensors and software for data collection and display, mathematical calculations, graphing, drawing, the simulation of physical events, mathematical modeling, and word processing. This process will provide you with more than just knowledge about the particular concept under study. The goal is for you to understand why a particular scientific definition is made and be able to better comprehend the meaning of the physical laws that unfold.

Pre-requisites: None
Please be aware this is a demanding and rigorous course. To succeed in this course it is necessary that you possess solid college-level reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Math at the high school algebra level will be used, so the student should be familiar with basic algebra, geometry and trigonometry. No previous knowledge of physics is assumed. Most importantly, however, you must demonstrate good time management skills and be highly self-motivated and self-disciplined.

This online course will require you to interact on a high level with computer technology delivered over the Internet. You must havea reliable, high-speed Internet connection as well as the necessary computer hardware, software, and skills to complete the course assignments (see below).

II. Required Course Package
Vernier Go!Motion Vernier Go!Motion

Logger Pro 3

Each student is required to purchase the course packet from the WKU Bookstore. This package contains equipment required to perform experiments from your residence and down load access to the electronic text/workshop and to LoggerPro3 data-collection and analysis software. The equipment package contains: one Go!Motion portable USB motion detector from Vernier Software and Technology, two low-friction dynamics carts with spring loaded plunger, one 20 Newton capacity spring scale and one 20 Newton capacity push-pull spring scale.

Explorations in Physics homepage

David P. Jackson, Priscilla W. Laws and Scott V. Franklin (2003), Explorations in Physics, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0-471-32424-8

Dynamics Cartspush-pull spring scales

III. Professor: Richard Gelderman

Ph.D. Astronomy, 1994, University of Virginia
M.A. Astronomy, 1990, University of Virginia
B.S. Physics, 1986, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

230 Thompson Complex, Central Wing,
Western Kentucky University
1906 College Heights Blvd
Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101-1077


Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

A. Describe the scientific method and its importance. Demonstrate the ability to make sound judgments on scientific matters that affect the citizenry.

B. Understand how a scientific theory can be developed from systematic observations and experiments. Perform observations and experiments and build a conceptual framework to explain phenomena.

C. Learn to observe, classify, and describe one-dimensional motion using different representations including words, pictures, graphs, and mathematical equations.

D. Observe how forces affect the motion of an object that is moving along a line and use those observations to develop more specific hypotheses about how the motion of an object is affected by forces.

E. Develop computer skills needed to collect and analyze scientific data using various computer tools to effectively manage experimental uncertainty and instrumental sensitivity.

V. Grading:

This course is is comprised of experiments that require preparation, execution, reporting, and collaborative reflection. There are four required quizzes to assess the degree to which material from each section is learned. The collaborative final project is the capstone experience of the course, using the skills developed by the previous experiments.

Your grade will be based on your performance of the course requirements. Points are earned based on the values for each course requirement stated below.

No work will be accepted for a grade beyond the due date. Discussion board contributions must be submitted to our Blackbaord PHYS 101 course site. Homework submitted via email will not be graded.

All work turned in for a grade must be your own. No credit will be given for work that is not demonstrably your own.



Required Online Activities & Homework Assignments

The assignments are time-sensitive and have firm participation deadlines.

300 pts total 300

Discussion Board Postings

Conferences are time-sensitive and have firm due dates. There are no make-ups for missed assignments.

40 @ 6 pts ea 240


Quizzes are time-sensitive and must be taken during the period they are offered. There are no make-ups for missed quizzes.

4 @ 40 pts ea 160
Capstone Project

Every student must submit a Proposal, arrange to join a group, collaborate with the group to complete the project, and produce a Project Report.

300 pts 300


The following grade scale will be used to determine your semester grade.
Grade Points
A 900-1000
B 800-899
C 700-799
D 600-699
F 0-599


A. General Comments
The design of this course for online distance learning allows each student to perform experiments at the location of her/his own choosing. There are still requirements for students to complete all course requirements in their assigned sequence during the academic term, and to collaborate on tasks within the same period of a day or two.
This course and all associated communication within or as part of must adhere to the WKU Technology Ethics Policy.

B. Communication

We will primarily communicate with each other both through Blackboard and via your WKU e-mail account. You are expected to carefully read all announcements and e-mails. Overlooking the provided information is not an excuse for not knowing that information. Every student is expected to check the Blackboard Announcements page and her/his WKU e-mail account at least once every two days. Not checking the Announcements page or your WKU e-mail is not an excuse for not knowing the provided information.

The best way to contact your instructor is to use the Blackboard Discussion Board. E-mails directly to your instructor should be sent only to communicate issues you do not wish others to read or that you think need personal attention. Be certain that your name is easily found in every e-mail you send -- either in the subject line, the salutation, or the closing. In addition, every e-mail must include in the subject line the course name [ASTR108] and a brief description of the topic. Messages with blank subject lines will be discarded as spam.

Except for weekends and holidays, you can expect me to respond to questions posted in the Blackboard Discussion Board area within 12 hours.

C. Netiquette

It is a requirement for this course that you use appropriate professional etiquette when you e-mail me or your fellow students. Unclear or unprofessional messages will simply be ignored. This concept of "netiquette" iexplained further at the follwing websites:
Top 10 Netiquette Guidelines
Core Rules of Netiquette

D. Time Magnagement, Assignments & Due Dates

Plan to start the course promptly and complete each assignment well before its deadline. Visit the Blackboard online classroom at least every other day to read announcements, check the assignment schedule, take quizzes, and read/post discussion board messages. Students are responsible for keeping up with and adhering to the due dates and other instructions posted there in the course calendar and announcements areas of the Blackboard online classroom.

All assignments required for our course are provided as weekly assignment checklists within your Blackboard account. Click "Assignments" in the lefthand Blackboard menu  to view them. Within every assignment folder is a list of all the topics and tasks for this portion of the learning module, including due date and possible points for each task. In case of a discrepancy, the information on Blackboard will be taken as the authoritative due date or point value.

Each quiz will be taken online via Blackboard after completing the assigned readings, reviewing the appropriate topics, and successfully submitting each of the assigned workbook entries.

E. Capstone Project:
This course requires completion of a collaborative experimental investigation. Each student is required to submit an individual project proposal that is meant to demonstrate the preliminary planning that has occurred and to offer your instructor an opportunity to assess the level of difficulty and to help you plan a project that can be completed in the appropriate time frame. Your group will decide what project to undertake and what you hope to learn. In addition to carrying out the necessary experimental measurements and data analysis, you will be expected to complete a concise written report of your investigation. Your project report is a group effort, with all group members expected to contribute in a substantial way. Download guidelines for the project proposal and report.

Beware of Murphy's Law. Working on your projects is your responsibility. Due to the independent nature of the work, there is a tendency for students to put off the project until the deadline for completion nears. Because there are usually unforeseen problems when attempting any scientific experiment, you are urged to begin your projects early. One of the skills we hope you learn is how to deal effectively with unforeseen (and sometimes difficult) problems.

F. Blackboard Policies for this online course
At the WKU Blackboard website,, you will find logon instructions about how to gain entry into the online course for which you have registered. In the online classroom, click the Tools button to find a manual explaining the various functionalities of Blackboard. Please look it over and consult it when you have questions about how to use the various Blackboard elements.

Once you successfully enter our online PHYS 101 coursepage on Blackboard, you can click on the various icons there to read announcements, pick up assignments, take tests, view grades, use the discussion board, use email, and consult other materials placed there.

  1. Announcements
    You are responsible for reading all announcements posted in the Blackboard announcements area. Check announcements each time you login being sure to read all announcements posted since the last time you logged in. Announcements are automatically shown to you on entry to the Blackboard online classroom. Some are permanent and always show. Others only show for a limited time after being posted. To see previously posted, nonpermanent announcements, select one of the tabs (last seven days, last month, etc) and use the scroll bar on the right of the screen.

  2. Discussion Board
    Participation in online discussions is required and graded. The discussion board conferences are asynchronous and have definite start and finish dates indicated in the instructions for each conference. The purpose of the discussions is to stimulate study and discussion of the weekly reading assignments.
    Discussion board exchanges are time sensitive and, if missed, may not be made up. However, there are more conference points available than can be used if you earned them all. Missing a conference or two or a quiz or two will not prevent you from earning the necessary points so long as you perform well on the discussions in which you do participate.
    The following Discussion Board participation rules and guidelines apply to all posts:
    ---- Students must make at least two types of contributions to each posted discussion board topic.
    ---- Each new Thread Topics must respond to the discussion board assignment. No credit can be earned in a conference for reply postings unless a new thread is started.
    ---- Replies (or secondary postings) respond to the new threads other students.
    ---- Late postings to conferences will NOT be graded.
    ---- If you participate in more than the required number of conferences then the posts with the lowest grades will be ignored.

  3. Weekly Assignments
    Weekly assignments are available from the Blackboard menu by clicking on the button titled Assignments, and clicking on the assignment with the current week's date. Each weekly assignment has a checklist that indicates the topics, reading assignments, essays, conferences, quizzes and any other activities that must be completed during the week.

  4. Quizzes
    There are four quizzes during the semester that count toward your overall grade. Each of the quizzes must be taken online in Blackboard and must be completed during its window of availability. The tests are open-book, students may use any outside resource, including, but not limited to, textbook, notes, or the Internet.

    The instructor will clear any locked quizzes. But don't expect the instructor to be able to unlock it in time for you to retake a quiz if you get locked-out late on the last day of its availability. It is strongly suggested that you take the test early in the week to avoid this potential pitfall.

    No make-up quizzes are given for unless the student [1] notifies the instructor prior to missing the quiz or [2] provides acceptable documentation indicating an exceptional circumstance caused the quiz to be missed without prior notification. Since the quiz is available for several days, it is rare that a student will be allowed to take a missed test.

VII. Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who require accomodations (academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids or services) for this course must contact the Office for Student Disability Service, (270) 745-5004 V/TDD. Please do not request accomodations directly from the professor without a letter from the office of Student Disability Services.

Updated 22 January 2011