A colleague working in Open Educational Resources at UMass’s W.E.B. du Bois Library just brought my attention to an article: Vo, Mai K., and Jonathan C. Sharp. “Design, Development, and Content Creation for an Open Education Physics Website for MRT Education.” Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences 50, no. 2 (June 1, 2019): 212–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmir.2019.03.180. This article describes a new open-education physics website http://openphys.med.ualberta.ca/. I encourage folks to go check it out.
This Open Phys site is meant to be a way for medical professionals to learn more about modern physics, specifically those that underpin the MRI. However, what is really interesting about the site is its structure: the fundamental topics are displayed as tiles.
When the student selects a topic, they are directed to a map with the information. This structure is more flexible than a standard book as there is no requirement for a linear progression. I feel that for some topics, such a non-linear presentation is particularly useful; I remember as a student having trouble with statistical mechanics because, to me, it felt very non-linear. My study strategies involved outlines – a very linear organization. This method worked great for electricity and magnetism which, I and every textbook I have ever seen, feels has a very linear progression. However, this method failed me in statistical mechanics. Only when I took the course again in graduate school, and made a map at the end of the semester did the material “click.” As an instructor, I have drawn on that experience and sometimes suggested to students that a map may be helpful. I never know which topics a given student will see as linear, as it depends upon their own perceptions and educational background.
In addition to content presentation, this site makes use of multi-modal presentation, mixing videos and text, as well as H5P to incorporate formative quizzing.
I really like the idea of this method of presentation and the fact that this source code for this site is on GitHub under Creative Commons Attribution 4. 0 License makes it easy to adapt and incorporate into my own materials. I do wonder, however, about the accessibility of this format. The multiple points of access and variety of paths through the material would seem to be a plus, but the format could also be confusing. Moreover, how effectively could someone navigate this site if they use a screen reader or are reliant on input devices other than a mouse? These would be important questions to explore before incorporating it into my curriculum.