# How to teach Physics online: Bringing the classroom to the student

## Chris

Biology, Chemistry, Maths & Physics

June 14th, 2017

How to teach Physics online? There are probably as many answers to this question as there are tutors and teachers who try to teach online. In this blog, Chris sets out how, to him, teaching Physics to one student via online tuition isn't so different to teaching a class of students at all: you just need a plan and the right technology!

I am a professional teacher. I have a degree in Physics, a degree in Marketing and a degree in teaching (PGCE). I decided to focus on tutoring and work with small groups of students or individuals in the classroom, the home and online. So how do I teach physics online might be a better question, although the very short answer to the question is, ‘The same way I teach it in the classroom and at home!’  As with all short answers, this is both right and wrong.

## Use a lesson plan just like in the classroom

Let us explore some of the differences. In the classroom, I will prepare a full lesson plan prior to each lesson. Nothing overly complex, but along the lines of – ‘Today we will be learning about the Hubble constant. By the end of the lesson you will be able to calculate the distance to a star based on its red shift and the Hubble constant and also estimate the age of the universe.  To achieve this aim we will discuss what cosmologists thought prior to Hubble’s discovery, what his discovery means, and the maths behind it. We will review the Doppler shift we learned in previous lessons and how to apply it to light from moving objects, and therefore from stars. We will explore and use some equations. We will look at other evidence for the big bang, and then calculate the age of the Universe. To demonstrate that this has sunk in we will do a set of questions for homework. We will end the lesson with some rich questioning and a review and summary of what we have learnt.’ A general was quoted as saying that any military plan only lasts until he connects with the enemy. The same is often true of a lesson plan. It is very important to maintain a level of flexibility within the plan. Some top students may get the ideas very quickly and then get bored if the explanation takes too long for them. Other students will not get it easily and feel left behind if the class is moved on too quickly. It is always good to have extra worksheets to set for the students as well as some simpler ones as well. This lesson lends itself to using a number of online simulations of the Doppler shift and the red shift and indeed the Hubble constant. More on simulations later. If the class is very small (two or three students), then I plan very much in the same way – except, I know the strengths and weaknesses of these three students much better than all 16 or 30 of the bigger class. There will also be no issues over wandering attention as I can easily engage all three simultaneously. When we are down to one on one tutoring, the same plan can still be used, but the opening proviso will be an introductory conversation to tease out the individual's prior knowledge on this and related topics. The lesson can then continue in such as way as to not re-teach elements the student already knows but can build from any prior knowledge and go as deep into the topic as the student wishes.

## Explore topics and ideas more widely than in the classroom

In a class of 30, I will teach from the whiteboard at the front, moving freely between the students while they are answering questions. In the classroom, it is important to keep the students on topic – and to discourage conversations that drift too far from the subject matter. In a class of three, we can still work this way, but the conversations can roam more widely around the topic. As long as the others are in general agreement with the diversion, and as long as I can use its relevance to the main topic, then this is a good way to stretch the students, and let them ask the harder or more awkward questions that they may not dare to answer in a larger group. Students can be very reluctant to reveal a lack of knowledge or a misunderstanding to a large peer group. In a one-on-one session, I will sit next to the student for our conversation. In our first lesson, I will have stressed that there are NO wrong answers and no taboo questions. Every answer that is not the expected one will lead to a better answer, a clarification of a misunderstanding or an expression of imagination. So as we discuss together, a sheet of paper will replace the whiteboard, but we will still follow the plan in as flexible way as possible while meeting or exceeding the lesson objective. Translating this to an online situation is simplicity itself. I use exactly the same technique.

## Conclusion

In summary, the difference between online tutoring and in home tutoring is that there is no change. We use the computer to provide an audio connection via Skype or WebEx or another voice over IP option (yesterday, when the storm dropped my main internet I used my mobile ‘phone on the 4G network to run a backup service). The whiteboard or sheet of paper is replaced by the interactive whiteboard, and the pen is replaced by the stylus. All that is missing is the time taken travelling from one place to another and the time spent making a cup of coffee.

Chris qualified as a teacher in Physics in 2012, and now works as a tutor with Owl Tutors.

After 32 years in Industry Chris returned to University to gain a PGCE in Physics and Maths (his third degree). After qualifying Chris branched out into tuition, and as time progressed he realised that he enjoyed tutoring far more than classroom teaching. Chris Tutors Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Astronomy.

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### 2 responses to “How to teach Physics online: Bringing the classroom to the student”

1. TARIQ MAHMOOD says:

It is submitted that I want to work as an online tutor for physics and maths subjects of o levels ,A levels,grade 10 and 12.
I have Fsc pre-Engineering certificates from APS rawalpindi and BE civil Engineering from uettaxila.I have my own Academy in pakistan as well.
I can teach these subjects in greater depths and with extra materials.
I shall be waiting from your response.

Thanks,

Regards,

Engr.Tariq Mahmood

Rawalpindi Pakistan