Online reading assignment: course policies, significant figures, unit conversion, dimensional analysis

Physics 205A, fall semester 2015
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a bi-weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.

The following questions were asked on reading textbook chapters and previewing presentations on significant figures, course policies, unit conversions and dimensional analysis.

Selected/edited responses are given below.

Describe what you understand from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview. Your description (2-3 sentences) should specifically demonstrate your level of understanding.
"When multiplying or dividing values, the number of significant figures in the answer is the same as the number of significant figures in the value with the fewest significant figures. I also understand that when adding or subtracting values, the answer has the same amount of decimal places as the value with the fewest decimal places."

"The units of measurement table and the role that units play in problem solving. Also each unit's abbreviation and how it helps in expressing equations."

"Physical and temporal properties--such as length, mass, and time--can be expressed using a standard international system of units (SI), and further, that these units can be converted from one to another: feet to meters, seconds to minutes, using (standard) unit ratios."

"What is expected of me from this course in terms of how I will be graded and what I am expected to know at the end of the year."

"I need to keep up with assignments. I also need to take good notes, and pay attention to detail. As long as I proficiently do well on my assignments and quizzes/exams, I should get a decent grade in the class."

"My book does not arrive until tomorrow."

Describe what you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview. Your description (2-3 sentences) should specifically identify the concept(s) that you do not understand.
"One thing that just won't stick for me is significant figures. I also have minor troubles with unit conversions."

"I occasionally got jumbled with the correct number of significant figures, but more practice problems and use of the flowchart helped a lot."

"I still don't know why significant digits are so important."

"Still making small errors concerning multiplying and dividing significant figures, will just take practice and time to perfect!"

"The topics I read were nothing new to me."

Indicate how your course grade would be affected for each of the following cases.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Not completing online reading assignments: a whole letter grade. [46%]
Not completing online homework reports: one-half of a letter grade. [59%]
Missing three labs: failing the course. [80%]
Missing three quizzes: not at all, or not much. [41%]
Absent on a midterm day: depends on if/whether there is an acceptable excuse. [32%]

Indicate how your course grade would be affected for the case of only coming to half of the lectures.
Not at all, or not much.  ** [2]
One-half of a letter grade.  ****** [6]
A whole letter grade.  ***** [5]
Two whole letter grades  *********** [11]
(Depends on if/whether there is an acceptable excuse.)  *** [3]
Failing the course.  ******************** [20]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  ********* [9]

Match the SI (Système International d'Unités) prefixes with their corresponding powers of ten.
(Only correct responses shown.)
centi- (c): 10-2. [98%]
giga- (G): 109. [93%]
kilo- (k): 103. [95%]
mega- (M): 106. [96%]
micro- (µ): 10-6. [96%]
milli- (m): 10-3. [96%]
nano- (n): 10-9. [100%]

Mark the level of your exposure to units and dimensional analysis.
None at all.  ** [2]
Slight  [7]
Some.  ***************** [17]
A fair amount.  ************************ [24]
A lot.  ****** [6]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"These reading assignments are confusing. I'm not sure which of these questions I will get full credit for for simply answering them, and which ones I have to answer a certain way to get full credit for. Do I need to lie and say I spent a lot of time on the assignment to get full credit? Also, will we lose points if we don't answer the questions without stars next to them?" (You are graded for completing these assignments in a thoughtful manner, whether your answer is correct or not, as I'm looking for feedback on your learning in order to determine what should be (or not be) addressed in the subsequent lecture. Note that some answers are mandatory in order to submit your assignment. Also, just be honest in stating whether you spent a lot of time (or very little, or none at all) doing the reading.)

"What is the emphasis on the textbook as compared to what we talk about in lecture? Are the notes from lecture and online presentations a better study tool, or should we be pulling from the textbook as our main guide?" (The textbook, online presentations, and lecture notes are all important--but the online presentations will emphasize the important concepts from the textbook (and also fill in additional details), and the lectures will concentrate on what the class is having difficulties with, as determined from the feedback from the online reading assignments the night before.)

"I felt like a lot of the struggle I have had so far was understanding how the course is structured online with the blogs and other forms of learning. I'm trying to find the best way to teach myself and learn the material presented. Any recommendations?" (Let's just roll with it for the first few weeks of the semester, and you should become familiar with the structure of this course--as long as you keep up with the reading and complete the online assignments to give me feedback on your learning, then I can structure each lecture to best address what you need each class.)

"Dividing by one can give an infinite amount of of significant figures?" (#wut)

"What color of crayon do you think tastes the best?" (I don't know--I close my eyes and eat my crayons at night, in the dark. Don't you? #tasteslikechildhoodregret)

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