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A computer-aided introductory course in electricity and magnetism

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1 Author(s)
P. A. Assimakopoulos ; Nucl. Phys. Lab., Ioannina Univ., Greece

The author has restructured the first year Electricity and Magnetism course that he has been teaching for a number of years in the Physics Department of the University of Ioannina. This is a required course for all our first-year physics students during the spring semester; about 150 students enter our physics program every year. The course includes a computer laboratory, which replaces the traditional recitation sessions accompanying the four-hour-per-week formal lectures. In looking at how to organize the class, he studied a number of introductory physics courses that use computers but he found them to be mostly demonstrational. They ask students to execute a few instructions-most of which seem somewhat artificial-and then follow a demonstration that has been prepared for each student. However, he believes that the method most pedagogically beneficial to students is one in which they do everything themselves, understanding what they are doing at every step. To implement this approach, he considered several computer packages such as MathCad and Mathematica, but they would require an inordinately long period of instruction before a first-year student could produce useful results. Therefore, he used only Microsoft Excel and elements of Microsoft's Visual Basic Applications, which students learn during the previous semester

Published in:

Computing in Science & Engineering  (Volume:2 ,  Issue: 6 )