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What to expect from Physics and Astronomy courses in Fall 2020

The Department of Physics and Astronomy has been working hard this summer to reinvent its curriculum in a form that offers students an engaging and enhanced learning experience, while respecting the challenges and constraints of the COVID era.  Our courses this fall will employ a variety of approaches and technologies to ensure that students receive the engagement and support they need in order to succeed.  

In particular, introductory courses are being led by some of our most experienced and successful faculty, several of whom have won awards for their teaching.  These instructors have been striving for many years to make our large-lecture courses as engaging to all students as possible, and many of the pedagogical techniques they have developed can be readily adapted to an online or hybrid format.  While the details will differ from instructor to instructor, all lecture courses will offer students a stimulating learning environment with many opportunities for interaction, discussion, and individual attention.   Some classes will be offered synchronously, closely replicating the traditional classroom environment, with live demonstrations, in-class exercises, and frequent opportunities to ask questions.  Other instructors plan to offer a "flipped classroom", where students view recorded lectures in advance and meet during classroom hours to solve problems, review and discuss lectures, and engage in small-group activities that reinforce concepts.  

All laboratory courses will continue to include in-person, hands-on experiences (on an optional basis) as well as a full suite of fresh, fully-tested online labs.  And all students taking Astronomy courses will have the opportunity to make use of the Macadam Observatory's 20-inch telescope.  

Recognizing that students' needs for personalized support may be greater than usual this fall, all instructors will offer extended office hours.   The Physics and Astronomy Learning Center, which provides individual assistance and instruction to all students, will be online more than 30 hours per week.  Our instructional staff works closely with “The Study” to ensure that all campus tutoring services are aware of current class schedules and topics, and that tutors are fully qualified to serve students needing assistance.  In summary, all of us in the Department of Physics and Astronomy will strive to be more available than ever to our students, and to continue to earn our reputation as a department that provides instruction and student support of the highest quality.