UniServe Science News Volume 11 November 1998


Australian Computers in University Physics Education (OzCUPE4), 1998

Anne Fernandez
UniServe Science, The University of Sydney

This year OzCUPE4 was held in Fremantle, WA, 1 - 2 October, to take advantage of the AIP National Congress organisation and delegates. It ran as a stream within the AIP program. Each day began with plenary sessions and then, after morning tea, broke into streams for the remainder of the day. The plenaries on the Friday were particularly relevant to education. Dominic Dickson, Department of Physics, University of Liverpool, spoke on "New ideas for promoting physics" and Alun Jones, Chief Executive of the UK Institute of Physics, covered "Higher education in the UK".

Ian Johnston, UniServe Science, set the scene for the OzCUPE4 stream with a comprehensive coverage of the "Use of the web for university science teaching in Australia". Several of the subsequent papers were on the ways in which different institutions were using IT, in particular the web, within specific courses. One interesting observation from the various papers given is that academics from universities such as, Curtin and Murdoch, have had more exposure to the problems and issues associated with distance education and multiple campuses than most of their colleagues from the eastern states. This was particularly apparent in the Chris Lund, Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy, Murdoch University, presentation in which he looked at challenges and potential problems of delivering physics courses via the web.

Alex Mazzolini, School of Biophysical Sciences and Electrical Engineering, Swinburne University of Technology, gave a very interesting paper on the use of web-based assessment specifically designed to test conceptual understanding in physics. The underlying system being used is WWWAssign (a subset of WebAssign). All his current testing is being used for formative assessment. This is a collaborative project between Swinburne and the University of Tasmania. They are endeavouring to build up a question bank to be shared with other interested institutions.

Suzanne Hogg, Department of Applied Physics, University of Technology, Sydney, gave two very different but equally dynamic and motivating presentations. The first on automated testing and assessment and the second on the use of sound to liven up lectures and other presentations.

Bob Loss, Department of Applied Physics, Curtin University of Technology, outlined their 'Studio' teaching and learning model which has been introduced with the aims of: increasing physics understanding, overall performance, interest and class attendance; and reducing withdrawal rates. Mario Zadnik, Department of Applied Physics, Curtin University of Technology, gave a paper on another innovative teaching initiative within physics at Curtin. This covered a course that is run to improve physics students' communication skills. Within the course the students plan and run a symposium, including publishing the proceedings.

Kirsten Hogg, School of Physics, The University of Sydney, outlined her research into the use of concept maps to investigate student understanding in physical optics. This paper generated a great deal of interest and discussion.

This report mentions only a few of the papers presented at the conference. There were many others of interest, however, I have selected those that I believe illustrate the breadth of innovative teaching ideas being used within physics.

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UniServe Science News Volume 11 November 1998

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