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How to Learn Physics Online

written by: Kathy Foust•edited by: Sylvia Cochran•updated: 10/5/2009

If you're considering taking physic courses online, you may be wondering what to expect from the class. Will you be prepared? Read the information provided below to see if the online format is right for you.

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    Online Physics

    If you plan to take a physics course, you might consider taking it online instead of the traditional brick and mortar method. An online physics course may differ in some ways from a traditional course, and it pays to be aware of those differences before making your decision, especially if you have never taken a course online before.

    Physics is primarily the study of matter and energy, and it explains how they interact with each other. What this means for you is that there will be quite a few scientific laws to memorize and apply. Theses laws tend to be used in the form of mathematical equations and real life applications. Therefore, any physics class can be expected to keep you quite busy with interesting material. If you are taking a physics course online there are several other elements to factor in. Most online schools offer a minimum of an introductory physics course that will cost the same as any other course with respect to tuition, but may have additional lab fees as described below.

    Any online course requires some limited computer knowledge. You will need to know how to get into your online class, check your email and likely perform online tasks such as labs, homework assignments, discussion boards and tests. An overview of some of these applications is provided below.

    • Online classes: To get to your online class, you first have to sign into the school website as a student and then go to your online class area from there. In your class you find your syllabus, lab assignments, homework assignments, grades and discussion board.
    • Discussion board: This is where online teachers tend to take attendance. They will normally ask a question and your attendance may be graded based on your response, and also any required responses to other students.
    • Labs: Generally you either receive a CD with lab components on it or there will be links in your lab assignments that directs you to the proper website -- if the lab is an online lab. If the lab is something you can complete at home, then you receive the directions and instructions for the proper method of submitting your lab results online.
    • Homework assignments: There is normally a separate tab that lists your homework assignments and when they are due. The instructor puts the directions for submitting the assignments in the syllabus.
    • Tests: Some tests are proctored, which means that you will have to get a proctor or go to a site near you home that offers proctored exam taking. The proctor requirements are listed in the syllabus, but generally they may be the proctors of the actual school you attend, a licensed teacher, or even a librarian.

    The computer knowledge you need to complete an online physics course includes some word processing skills and the ability to navigate links. You also need to be able to check your email, but if you can check your personal email then checking your school email will be no different -- other than going through the school site to get to it.

    If this is a path you intend to pursue, you may want to check with your school to see if they offer this course online. Some traditional colleges have a wide variety of courses online, but there are also online schools that offer these classes, such as Grand Canyon University and Phoenix University.

    The benefits of taking a physics course online depend on the field you plan to pursue or are already invested in. Currently there is a demand for those with extensive knowledge of science in all areas. One particular area that is in need of science knowledge is the area of education. In fact, science teachers are so highly prized that there is a specific grant for those who plan to teach science.

    If you are a current teacher, then you already know that a physics class not only boosts your career, but in some states also your paycheck! Those who would use these courses to improve their career would include teachers, who plan to pursue a degree in science or those wishing to add to their resume through continuing education.

    Don't be intimidated by the fact that the class is online. Though the format may be unfamiliar, online instructors tend to be quite helpful in that area. They are more concerned about your knowledge and effort in the subject matter and try to make your online experience as pleasant as is reasonable.