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The usage of computers in Physics Instruction began in the seventies and ever since then, lots of research efforts have been devoted to studying various emerging technologies and their impact on the learning process. Multimedia Learning Systems provide flexibility as well as a collaborative approach to learning, decreased cost of education for learners and proper time usage for instructors. It provides a major benefit over the traditional approach to Physics Instruction.

This Thesis is the analysis, design and implementation of a Multimedia Learning System for Selected Topics of Physics. A first implementation of our Environment for a Newtonian Mechanics course which happens to be one of the first areas of Physics introduced to undergraduate level Science Students is presented here. The technology used for this system is the Java 2D Technology of Sun Microsystems.

The system is portable, web-based enabled, machine-independent and easy-to-use. It can be used as a stand-alone application or run as an applet in any one of the major web-browsers. It is designed to meet the active learning preferences of Physics learners and can also be used as a supporting tool for other courses.

Keywords: Computer uses in education, computer-mediated instruction, multimedia learning systems.


Table of Contents
List of Figures

1          Introduction
1 1.1.   Background
1.2.      Aims and Objectives
1.3.      Research Questions
1.4       Thesis Structure
1.5       Expected Contributions

2          Brief Review of the State of Physics Education in the 21st Century
2.1 Background
2.1.1 Reasons for decline in enrollment of Physics Majors Problems with the traditional Physics Curriculum Change in the overall perception as regarding the usefulness of Physics A change in the students
2.2 Usage of Computers in Physics Education
2.3 Motivation for choosing to develop a Multimedia Learning System for Newtonian Mechanics in this work
2.3.1 Popularity of Newton’s Laws
2.3.2 Common misconceptions from beginning students

3          State of the Art of Learning Systems for Physics Education in General and Newtonian Mechanics in particular
3.1 Tools for Data Acquisition and Manipulation
3.2 Open-Access Educational websites
3.3 Integrated VLEs and microworlds

4  Problem Statement:  How  does  one  effectively  motivate  students  (African)  to  study Physics?
4.1 Issues facing the use of Multimedia Learning Systems as a tool for Physics Instruction
4.1.1 Computer acting as a master over student instead of the reverse
4.1.2 Lack of full Intellectual Engagement on the part of the Student
4.1.3 Replacing the former methods of instruction with the computer
4.1.4 Forgetting the students’ point of view in favor of designers
4.2 Analysis of related works on Multimedia Learning Systems for Physics Instruction
4.3 Justification of research question

5 A new approach to Physics Instruction: A Multimedia Learning System for Newtonian Mechanics
5.1 Why a Multimedia Learning System for Newtonian Mechanics?
5.1.1 Skill Analysis Basic Skills Theoretical Skills Experimental Skills General Skills
5.2 Learner Preferences
5.2.1 Active versus Reflective Learners
5.2.2 Sensing versus Intuitive Learners
5.2.3 Visual versus Verbal Learners
5.2.4 Sequential versus Global Learners
5.3 Design Principles
5.3.1 Teachers as facilitators not as knowledge transmitters
5.3.2 Learning must take place in a collaborative environment
5.3.3 Active involvement of learners is key
5.3.4 Proper procedures for assessment
5.4 Implementation
5.5 Detailed description of our Multimedia Learning System
5.5.1 Welcome screen and Introduction component
5.5.2 Newton’s Second Law Simulator (N2 Simulator)
5.5.3 Visual Examples Self-Assessment
5.6 Evaluation

6 Conclusions
6.1 Summary of work and results
6.2 Challenges
6.3 Future Work

Chapter 1


1.1 Background

Nowadays, our world functioning is largely based on Information Technology. The usage of computers in Physics instruction began in the seventies [1]. Since then, lots of research efforts have been devoted to studying various emerging technologies and their impact on the learning process. Learning systems (also known as Virtual Learning Environments or VLEs) are being developed for use in the educational as well as corporate sectors. Over the years various contributions have been made from the commercial as well as open-source communities. Today there are a good number of learning systems in existence. Some of which are open source while a good number of them are commercially available. In a certain study [30] of ninth grade students in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an intelligent-tutor software program was used as part of the regular curriculum for ninth-grade algebra, to support a curriculum focusing on mathematical analysis of real-world situations and the use of computational tools. On average, the 470 students in the experimental classes using the software outperformed students in comparison classes by 15% on standardized tests and 100% on tests targeting the curriculum-focused objectives.

Some of these systems are also being used by numerous blue chip companies to deliver training to employees and customers via web conferencing and applications such as WebEx (created by Communications Inc. and acquired by Cisco in 2007). We also have the Blackboard Learning System which is a web-based server platform and also an established leader in the commercial learning systems platform market supporting as many as 3200 global customers. Among the many Universities that make use of the Blackboard Learning suite are Heriot-Watt University, University of Antwerp, Trent University, University of Ulster just to name a few. Its main purposes are to add online elements to courses traditionally delivered face-to-face and to develop completely online courses with few or no face-to-face meetings. Moodle which stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment is a free and open-source e-learning software platform built using PHP (a server-side scripting language) and created by Martin Dougiamas in 2003 as part of a research project. Since then it has become extremely popular, having as of 31 August, 2011, a user-base of 55,110 registered sites with 44,966,541 users in 4,763,446 courses in 214 countries and in more than 75 languages [2].Also heavy 3D immersive worlds have emerged such as SLOODLE (an Open Source project which integrates the multi-user virtual environment of Second Life with the Moodle learning management system) that integrates course management and virtual worlds) which supports active and collaborative learning. There is also UMGUMBO, which is a 3D Virtual Learning Environment set in Newtonian simulation of the solar system [3].

A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is a computer program that facilitates education via computer-mediated communication. They have increased in popularity over the years amongst Universities and other institutions of higher and further education. [4] Learning science research indicates that engineering and science students tend to have active and sensing learning preferences, and related educators are recognizing the need for more active and collaborative learning pedagogy. Many students entering college today, even some of those identified as among the brightest and highest achievers have been trained to associate learning physics with.....

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