Assessment: Physics 2500, Fall 2014

Background: Physics 2500 is "Introduction to Computer Methods in Physics", which is a 2 credit course required for beginning physics students.  Scientists and engineering students from other majors frequently take this course. The original scope of the course includes: use of numerical, graphical, and symbolic manipulation software to solve physics problems; interfacing computers to instrumentation for control and data acquisition.  This course was created approximately 20 years ago and has kept more or less the same form to date.

Learning Outcomes:  Student will be prepared to use - or learn to use - a variety of computer tools to assist in upper level coursework.  Student will understand the scope of available scientific computing resources which can be brought to bear on various scientific investigations.  Student will get a good start in computer skills which are valued by various potential employers.

Data and Analysis:  Based upon exit interviews with graduating seniors, the syllabus of the course appears to need updating to take account of the significant changes which have occurred in the past couple of decades. In particular, students perceive a need for experience with modern programming environments such as MATLAB because these are so frequently used in research applications and because such experience is valued by employers.

Actions: This course has been suspended pending (ongoing) revisions of the syllabus to address student feedback.  We are taking this opportunity to create a purely online version of this course.   Our curriculum committee is debating whether this course should be required by itself as it has in the past, or should be one option in a menu of possible introductory computational experiences including courses provided by other departments.  In this way the students can take the course which best meets their needs.