These notes represent an experiment in the use of information technology in teaching an advanced undergraduate physics course, Quantum Physics at UCSD. The experiment has several goals.

The current set of notes covers a 3 quarter course at UCSD, from the beginning of Quantum Mechanics to the quantization of the electromagnetic field and the Dirac equation. The notes for the last quarter should be considered to be a first draft.

At this time, the experiment is in progress. One quarter is not sufficient to optimize the course material. While a complete set of html based notes has been produced, only limited additional audio and visual material is now available.

It is my personal teaching experience that upper division physics students learn in different ways. Many physics students get very little more than an introduction to the material out of the lecture and prefer to learn from the textbook and homework. Some students claim they cannot learn from the textbook and rely on lectures to get their basic understanding. Some prefer a rather verbose exposition of the material in the text, while others prefer a concise discussion largely based on equations. Modern media have conditioned the students of today in a way that is often detrimental to learning complex subjects from either a lecture or a textbook.

I chose to use html and the worldwide web as the primary delivery tool for enhanced class notes. All of the standard software tools and information formats are usable from html. Every computer can access this format using Internet browsers.

An important aspect of the design of the notes is to maintain a concise basic treatment of the physics, with derivations and examples available behind hyperlinks. It is my goal, not fully met at this time, to have very detailed derivations, with less steps skipped than in standard textbooks. Eventually, this format will allow more examples than are practical in a textbook.

Another important aspect is audio discussion of important equations and drawings. The browser is able to concentrate on an equation while hearing about the details instead of having to go back an forth between text and equation. The use of this needs to be expanded and would benefit from better software tools.

Because of the heavy use of complex equations in this course, the html is generated from LaTeX input. This has not proved to be a limitation so far since native html can be included. LaTeX has the ability to produce high quality equations and input is fast compared to other options. The LaTeX2html translator functions well enough for the conversion.

Projecting the notes can be very useful in lecture for introductions, for review, and for quick looks at derivations. The primary teaching though probably still works best at the blackboard. One thing that our classrooms really don't facilitate is switching from one mode to the other.

In a future class, with the notes fully prepared, I will plan to decrease the formal lecture time and add lab or discussion session time, with students working moving at their own pace using computers. Projects could be worked on in groups or individually. Instructors would be available to answer questions and give suggestions.

Similar sessions would be possible at a distance. The formal lecture could be taped and available in bite size pieces inside the lecture notes. Advanced classes with small numbers of students could be taught based on notes, with less instructor support than is usual. Classes could be offered more often than is currently feasible.

Jim Branson

Jim Branson 2013-04-22