Physics 111 FAQ



How much work do I need to do to pass the class?


For a three credit lecture class like ours, the average student will need to spend two hours outside class for every hour of lecture doing homework, reading, reviewing notes, and studying for exams. Since we have 2.5 hours of lecture time per week, you should budget about 5 hours a week of your own time for these activities. This is an average guideline. Some students may be able to get by spending fewer than 5 hours per week, but for many students and for particularly challenging topics you may need to spend more than 5 hours per week in order to fully synthesize the material and achieve deep levels of understanding. In general, I plan homework and reading assignments with this guideline in mind.



Why do you use Mastering Physics?


There are several reasons we use Mastering Physics: fast feedback on homework, time and resource savings, and high-quality homework questions. For large lectures such as Physics 111 where there are more than 100 students enrolled, having an online computer system for grading homework allows my students to get timely feedback on their work. For most of your homework questions, feedback will be instantaneous. The last time I used paper assignments graded by hand it took me about two weeks to grade and return each homework assignment, which I feel is far too long and disrupts the learning process. Handing back paper assignments, a process that used to take up a large amount of class time, is also eliminated. Finally, having homework available online means saving paper resources. That being said, no online system is perfect and Mastering Physics does have some issues. I believe that these issues are more than balanced by the benefits to the students’ learning processes. There are also perks to using Mastering Physics in particular such as interactive diagrams and self-led tutorials.



How do I register for Mastering Physics?


Please refer to the link near the top of the previous page: “Registration Instructions”.



Why do I have to buy a textbook and an access code for the homework? This is really expensive!


The purpose of the Walker textbook is to provide you with a basic reference that is up-to-date and written at an appropriate level of scientific rigor for an introductory college course. Having a reference textbook is a good supplement to the lecture notes because it provides the student with an additional “voice” explaining the concepts of physics and several worked example problems. It’s there to be the backbone of the course. The homework is there to provide you with practice problems and get fast feedback on them, as described in the “Why do you use Mastering Physics?” answer. I do understand that everyone is under financial constraints and that there is a substantial cost associated with these materials. If you’re looking to save costs, you can rent your textbooks instead of purchasing them outright. Look for used books whenever possible as they will be cheaper than purchasing brand-new books. I will also try to place a copy of the textbook on reserve in the library so that students have a backup plan.



I found our book online for a lower price, but it’s an old edition. Is that ok?


If you would like to use the 3rd edition of the Walker text that is fine (there are not too may substantial changes between the 3rd and 4th edition), but the 2nd edition will be too old for our class. You can also purchase the “split” textbook, which is just the first half of the book. Physics 111 uses only Chapters 1-18 of the Walker text (although if you plan on taking Physics 112, you’ll need volumes 1 and 2 anyway). NOTE ABOUT OLD EDITIONS WITH MASTERING PHYSICS: No matter what textbook you buy, when you go to purchase your access code you MUST buy an access code for Physics by Walker, 4th edition. Do not purchase an access code for an older edition or a different version, because you will not be able to register for our course otherwise.



Are the slides posted online?


Yes! Go back to the class website and scroll down. The slides will be posted as PDF files with six slides per page.



I couldn’t make it to class. What did I miss and how can I get caught up?


Go check the website! After each class I will post what we covered, the reading assignment, and the lecture slides. I am happy to answer any questions you have on the material during office hours, but please keep in mind that I don’t have time to re-teach a class section for you one on one.



Why is there so much homework?


Learning how to do physics problems is like learning how to do push-ups: you only get better through lots of practice. When you’re first starting out it can be helpful to watch someone with experience solve a few problems and outline the major steps, just like it can be helpful to watch a coach or trainer do some push-ups to give you an idea of how to not hurt yourself. But eventually, if you really want to get good at doing push-ups (that is, be able to do them easily and quickly), you have to put in the time practicing. My goal as the instructor is to guide you through the amount of practice you will need at minimum to be good enough to do problems on the exams in a controlled environment. Along the same lines, the practice-makes-perfect model is why copying problem answers from a classmate or from the internet will not help you in the long run (see next question).



Why is looking up the answers online (using Google, yahoo, etc.) considered cheating?


First and foremost, because the answers you look up online are the result of someone else’s thought process and not your own, which is plagiarism. The purpose of the homework problems is to display what you’ve learned about how to solve physics problems. Looking up answers online shows me that you know how to use an internet search engine and reveals nothing about your understanding of physics. Since your grade is based on your understanding of physics, answers that you look up online will earn you zero points.



Will (insert topic here) be on the exam?


Before each exam I will announce which chapters will be covered. Please refer to the summaries at the end of each chapter in the Walker text for a good overview of the main points, and your homework assignments and class notes for a representative sampling of the types of problems you can expect to be on the exams.



I’m worried about my grade. What can I do to bring it up?


The best way to raise your grade is to evaluate what you’ve been doing in class so far and look for ways to improve your habits as soon as possible. Waiting and ignoring the problem will not help, and I am happy to help you develop a study plan to get you back on track. If you’re behind on the reading, get ahead and try to do the readings more than once before class. If you’ve missed a lot of classes, change your habit and start attending every class (and don’t be late!). Remember that participation does count towards your grade, so missing class means you’re likely missing a few key points that can help raise your grade. With homework assignments, start them as early as you can and ask questions when you get stuck. You can also work in study groups with classmates (although do make sure that the primary goal of your study group is understanding the material!), which many students find beneficial because you can help each other with your weak spots. If your exam scores have been low, come to office hours to pick up your old tests and evaluate which sections you did poorly on so that you know what to study for the final exam. I can also go over test-taking strategies with you one-on-one or recommend tutoring services here on campus.