Movie Physics is a class designed to teach introductory physics to non-science majors. In the class students learn how to debunk scenes from action or science fiction movies using guesstimates of physical quantities and the principles of physics. In summer 2015 the course instructor, Frank Robinson, with the help of staff from ODDOE (Office of Digital Dissemination and Online Education), created an online version of the class (SPHYS 101E).
In preparation for the online class, all of the spring lectures were recorded (over 30 hours of material) and split into 5-20 minute chapters incorporated into the Canvas site. Each chapter was followed by questions to test understanding of each topic. During the summer session, students watch about 6 hours of recorded lectures each week and meet synchronously with instructors three hours per week using the video conference software Zoom (see photo above) . The instructor used a digital whiteboard to answer questions and present sample problems to the class. These sessions were recorded and posted to the course website.
Students were assessed using responseware (clicker questions), examinations via their web-cams and with follow-up individual oral tests. One of the advantages in terms of assessment is that it asks non-standard questions based on an assortment of movie clips, so it would be difficult to “google” the answers.
Preliminary student feedback was encouraging with one student saying it was the best class they had so far taken at Yale. This may partly be because of the ability to re-watch explanations of new topics that might be conceptually difficult or non-intuitive. One of the blessings of the class is that it allows the instructor to change their material every year, which normally doesn’t happen in a physics class. Frank hopes that students don’t see the QR requirement as a burden, but actually something useful. “Perhaps years from now one of my former students can watch an ancient Bruce Willis flip over flaming garbage cans onto a motor boat and accurately explain that that actually is total nonsense to his friends” [link to Herald article].