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Almost one-third of all higher education students now take at least one course online (Sloan Consortium, 2011).Organizations that collect and disseminate “open educational resources” have grown out of the original “open courseware” movement.Overall enrollment is increasing, as are the fraction of students who are part-time and the fraction who are over 25 years old.These “nontraditional” students may have different experiences and expectations, and often they are seeking degrees while working and raising families and, thus, have very different constraints than the full-time, on-campus students that many of us think of as the norm.Throughout this chapter, recent national studies are drawn upon that have examined a particular aspect of physics education in depth, such as teacher preparation, the status of women and minorities in physics, or characteristics of thriving programs.
Meeting these challenges in turn relies on the existence of tools for gauging the extent to which changes produce the desired outcomes, and on physics faculty who are both equipped to engage in educational innovation and supported in doing so.
Strong economic pressures are bearing down on educational institutions such that discussions about “value added assessment” and “accountability,” which have had a significant impact on K-12 public education, are now affecting post-secondary education as well.
Change is also taking place in the way that undergraduate physics is taught.
Students take introductory physics for a variety of reasons.
Some are attracted to the beauty and power of physics, which may lead to a major or minor in the subject, often beginning with an honors-level introductory course.
You Tube videos and online discussion forums offer students a wide range of learning opportunities that go beyond the curriculum offered by their instructors.