The objective of this proposal is to develop an online “Computerized Interactive Teaching Assistant” (CITA) for PHYS 241D & 241 (Electricity & Optics) that would be available to guide students through homework problems at any time. The most often heard statement from students attempting the homework or practice exams is, “I don’t even know where to begin.” With CITA we propose to design an interactive component for every problem that will guide the student through a focused strategy for problem solving. CITA will guide students through problems in such a way as to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills with a thorough understanding of the physical concepts.
Most computerized homework systems for physics and other science courses only provide a “correct” or “incorrect” response to a student’s answers. If a student receives the “incorrect” message, there is no explanation as to why their logic was wrong and no hint on how to proceed. At the very most, there is a link to a section in the online textbook that is often too general for the specific problem at hand. The student either has to email an instructor, wait for recitation later in the week, or seek special appointments with instructors. The learning process is interrupted as the student waits for what often is simple guidance. Our goal is to design, develop, and implement the equivalent of an online teaching assistant who is available at any time to provide focused guidance to help students acquire critical thinking skills and develop a problem solving strategy.