• Length:
    13 Weeks
  • Effort:
    6–8 hours per week
  • Institution
  • Subject:
  • Level:
    Introductory
  • Language:
    English
  • Video Transcript:
    English

Prerequisites

An introductory physics course in high school or college is strongly recommended. Strong algebra and trigonometry skills and knowledge of or concurrent enrollment in a calculus course. 

About this course

Skip About this course

This college-level, calculus-based Introductory Newtonian Mechanics course covers all of the topics and learning objectives specified in the College Board Course Description for Advanced Placement®Physics C (Mechanics). It covers Newton’s Laws, Kinematics, Energy, Momentum, Rigid Body Rotation, and Angular Momentum. The course covers applications of these basic principles to simple harmonic motion, orbital motion, and to problems that involve more than one basic principle. These principles also underlie the 12 online laboratory activities.

Our emphasis is on helping students learn expert-like ways of solving challenging problems, many of which are similar to problems on previous Advanced Placement Examinations in Mechanics C. We stress a key insight: mechanics is about forces changing motion. We apply this concept to organizing the core knowledge in a way that helps students apply it to sophisticated multi-concept problems. We feel this is the best way to prepare students for success not only on the AP Examination but also in other college-level science, technology, engineering and math courses that emphasize problem-solving.

If you are a teacher looking to learn better ways to teach your students, or are interested in using some of our MOOC materials in your own classroom—possibly as a private online course for your students—we strongly encourage you to sign up for our teacher’s discussion cohort, a “private discussion room” for teachers to share pedagogical ideas and instructional techniques.To join these discussions, verify yourself as a teacher by clicking this link, and we will enroll you in the teacher’s discussion cohort.

FAQ

How long is this course?

The course consists of 13 weeks of required (graded) material and 2 weeks of optional (ungraded) material. You do not need to complete the optional weeks in order to receive a certificate, but we strongly encourage you to complete these units, especially if you are preparing for the College Board’s AP Physics C: Mechanics exam.

Is there a required textbook?

You do not need to buy a textbook. A complete eText, including worked-examples and some video lectures, is included in this edX course and is viewable online. If you would like to use a textbook with the course (for example, as a reference), most calculus-level books are suitable. Introductory physics books by Young and Freedman, Halliday, Resnick, & Walker, or Knight are all appropriate (and older editions are fine).

My physics is a little rusty. How should I prepare for this course?

If you would like to brush-up on basic mechanics skills before taking this course, we recommend the brief warm-up course, On-Ramp to AP Physics C: Mechanics.

What if I take a vacation?

The course schedule is designed with this in mind! Course content is always released at least 3 weeks ahead of the deadline, providing you with the opportunity for flexibility in scheduling.

How are grades assigned?

There are five parts of the course that are worth points: (1) Checkpoint problems are incorporated into the reading; (2) most weeks have an interactive lab component; (3) more involved homework problems occur at the end of each week and (4) quizzes at the end of every 1-2 weeks; (5) the course culminates in a final exam. Each category is worth a varying number of points; and you are allowed several attempts on each problem. A final grade of at least 60% is needed for certification; hence you will not have to do every problem.


Note: Taking this Course Involves Using Some Experimental Materials

The RELATE group that authors and administers this course is a physics education research group. We are dedicated to understanding and improving education, especially online. In one of the only published studies measuring learning in a massive open online course (MOOC), we showed that a previous iteration of this course produced slightly more conceptual learning than a traditionally taught on-campus course. Currently, we are working to find just what caused this learning.

In this course, the RELATE group will be comparing learning from different types of online activities that will be administered to randomly assigned sub-groups of course participants. At certain points in the course, new vs. more traditional sequences of activities will be assigned to different sub-groups. We will then use common questions to compare the amount of associated learning. Which group receives the new activities will be switched so that all groups will have some new activities and some traditional ones.

Our experimental protocol has been approved by the MIT Committee on Use of Human Subjects. As part of this approval we have the obligation to inform you about these experiments and to assure you that:

  • We will not divulge any information about you that may be identified as yours personally (e.g. a discussion post showing your user name).
  • The grade for obtaining a certificate will be adjusted downwards (from 60%) to compensate if one group has slightly harder materials.

Note: By clicking on the “Enroll Now” button, you indicate that you understand that everyone who participates in this course is randomly assigned to one of the sub-groups described above.

What you'll learn

Skip What you'll learn
  • Newtonian Mechanics beyond a first-year introductory course 
  • Angular momentum, planetary orbits, and harmonic motion
  • A unified overview of the structure of Mechanics
  • When and How to apply each conservation law
  • Expert strategies to solve multi-concept problems
  • To make measurements and do analyses of virtual experiments

Meet your instructors

David E. Pritchard
Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics
MIT