H. Mohottala

University of Hartford (UNITED STATES)
Today, the general student population enrolled in any college level class is highly diverse. We have “nontraditional” students: working part-time, older, commuting, returning mothers and, occasionally, military veterans enrolled in colleges and universities. Most of these students follow distant learning degree programs while engaging in their other commitments, work and family. However, those students tend to avoid taking science courses with labs, mostly because of the incapability of completing the lab component in such courses. In order to address this issue, we have come across a method where introductory level physics labs can be taught remotely. In this process a lab kit with the critical lab components that can be easily accessible are conveniently packed into a box and distributed among students at the beginning of the semester. Once the students are given the apparatus they perform the experiments at home and gather data. One of the problems we encountered was checking on how the experiments were performed and how the lab-reports were prepared and submitted. This was resolved by using WikiSpaces (WikiS). Unlike before, in this case, students create a new WikiS and invite their instructor to become a member of the page. Once the individual pages are created, students are given instructions to update the pages in weekly basis. Providing a platform to meet WikS plays an important role in this exercise: students can direct questions to the instructor, post pictures of their lab set-up and even attach video clips of the experiment and at the end, submit the lab report. Students can communicate with the lab instructor through WikiS as well, thus the instructor can advise the student in a timely manner. This method was used in an electromagnetism class for the first time, and the outcome was remarkable. Students, not only did what they were supposed to do but also added important links related to the electronics that they have been using in their circuits. WikiS, as discussed before 1,2,3 is one of the modern teaching tools in Physics classrooms and since it provides the stage for group of users to access and edit collaboratively and remotely, anyone who has a doubt about a lab can visit each other’s pages and learn more on what others are doing. Since the instructor has the ability to track every move student’s make (including visits to each other’s pages) – data replication can be evaded.

1 Mohottala, Hashini E. "The Combination of Just-in-Time Teaching and Wikispaces in Physics Classrooms." The Physics Teacher 51 (2013): 44-46.
2 Mohottala, Hashini E. "Wikis as a Teaching Tool in Physics Classrooms." The Physics Teacher 49 (2011): 363.
3 Mohottala, Hashini E. “Improving critical skills using WikiS and GPS in a Physics classroom – Submitted to The Physics Teacher