General Comments on Quality: The problems contained in this item span a wide range of types of circuits and require both quantitative and qualitative knowledge of parts of several chapters (DC Circuits, Capacitance, Inductance, AC Circuits) in a standard text. All problems are nicely done. With the possible exception of the third additional problem, which is confusing at best, none of the problems are wrong. Some of the problems give students practice in thinking beyond what is required for typical end-of-chapter problems. On the other hand, some others seem to be too strongly influenced by textbook problems, in that they ask rather simplistic questions. (See "Effectiveness".)
Some problems require true conceptual understanding for their solution. A couple of problems have a "More Help" button which allows the student to see a different view of the problem.
There are very few resources available at present that allow interactive,
active-engagement activities delivered via the Web. In this sense, all physlet problems are in a class by themselves. Some of these problems leverage this capability in interesting and effective ways. For example, several of the problems (e.g. 9.5.3, additional 2) do a very nice job at motivating concepts while reinforcing plotting skills. The first additional problem requires the student to formulate a solution strategy that is informed by conceptual understanding. 9.5.9 illustrates reactive phase shifts very effectively, as does additional problem 4.
General Comments on Effectiveness: Physlet problems can be very effective in ways that traditional formats can not approach. They are in a class by themselves - no other on-line resource is available that offers competing functionality. Some of the problems are excellent, requiring thought on the part of students as to what information they need to acquire in order to solve the problem. Others, are very simplistic, too similar to plug-and-chug textbook problems. The power inherent in the physlet scripting paradigm should be more consistently used to guide students to understanding of the more difficult aspects of subject matter that are not easily accessible to usual textbook problems.
General Comments on Usability: Problem 9.5.10 has a lot of potential, but setting the animation for a resonance condition using the accompanying plot is tedious. The slider in problem 9.5.1 does not return to zero when reinitialized (as it does in problem 9.5.3). Problem 9.5.5 has a plot that suffers from 2 digit time readout. Right clicking the plot spawns another plot that has even less precision in the time readout. Several of the problems have a slider to control the independent variable, and display a value rounded to the nearest integer. If this value is used (rather than a more accurate one that can be obtained another way) the calculated results can be far from the given answer, causing students to doubt their methods. Several of the problems have "Start" or "Close Switch" links that are superfluous since the graphing is automatically performed when the applet starts, and the pedagogical value of seeing the graph redrawn is nil. The horizontal and vertical scales are confusing because they often have a factor (e.g., 103) which is well-separated (and easily overlooked) from the labels on the axes.
Physlets are customizable and may be hosted locally. The problems in this collection should be considered as a starting point for a new set of problems modified to address any perceived shortcoming. A guide for scripting Physlets is the text Physlets: Teaching Physics with Interactive Curricular Material by Christian and Belloni.
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