Learning about light and optics in on-line general education classes using at-home experimentation

Document Type


Presentation Date

Summer 7-2013

Conference Name

Education and Training in Optics and Photonics

Conference Location

Porto, Portugal


General education courses are a critical part of improving a non-science major’s understanding of science in general and of physics in particular. To keep pace with changing modes of instruction, on-line classes are also becoming a standard method of instruction. We offer several on-line courses: such as Physics for Computer Graphics and Animation and Light and Color. The courses are designed to teach students about basic concepts of light, color and optics.

For Physics for Computer Graphics and Animation, software is used to demonstrate additive and subtractive light mixing as well as the function of lenses and mirrors. The software can provide students with the ability to control surface coloration, reflectivity and shape features that cannot be readily changed in laboratory.

Both Physics for Computer Graphics and Animation and Light and Color include a significant amount of investigation into light, color and optics when taught “face to face.” However, in the context of an on-line class, the question is how we might provide a meaningful and equivalent (or better) experience for on-line students? Our solution has been to develop kits the students rent or purchase that allow them to become “at home” investigators. The activities are designed so that the students must be engaged with the material and build upon their observations and conclusions. In the course, the students must participate in collaborative group discussions about their results. We present details of these courses, show student projects and discuss assessment of student understanding of light, color and optics after performing at home investigations.



This document is currently not available here.