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Computer Enhanced Learning

This page is provide for archival purposes. Please see our Education Resources site for the latest.

Thanks to the CELI team for suggesting that we offer pages describing the uses of instructional technology in our physics courses. Follow the links below to find out what we are doing with computers and instruction.

Data acquisition and analysis in introductory laboratories

Students in the general physics laboratories and second-year labs use their Thinkpads to monitor and control experiments.

Class Web pages

All of our teachers use Web pages to post course information, and most importantly, homework solutions. The astronomy course uses the web for last-minute weather-related changes, with links to weather forecasts. Many faculty use CourseInfo from Blackboard for some or all of their web postings; this software eases creation of online quizzes and provides restricted access to materials when needed.

Physics demonstrations online

We have begun a project to place videos of all classroom demonstrations in the introductory courses on the Web.

Online warm-up exercises

Online exercises prepare students for class discussion.


Use of the Web in Astronomy

Astronomy labs are subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Students can check the Astronomy Web Page to find weather reports and the expected lab to be done this evening. Full lecture notes are also available.

 Astronomy software

 Star maps, stellar evolution, and more.


Circuit simulation software dramatically enhances the learning of electronics.


Symbolic math software allows assignment of more intellectually challenging and realistic physics problems.


Spreadsheets provide powerful aids to understanding physics. Students use Excel for graphing and simple analysis in the first courses, while performing nonlinear least squares curve fitting by the second year.


The first tutorial software for introductory physics that we believe will significantly improve learning.

Programming and Unix

Physics majors need to know how to program. The Unix environment is the one they will see most often for scientific programming. Our students beging programming in a Unix environment by the second year.


The ray-tracing package Zemax extends the scope of optics problems that students can address.

Class voting via web pages

C.W. Yip has developed a Shockwave application that allows students in a class to cast votes via a Web page. Useful in things like ClassTalk and Peer Instruction.

Data visualization of dynamic systems

Computational physics calculations often result in enormous amounts of data. Most of the time, it is impossible to simply read the resulting data files and obtain any useful imformation. The best way to glean information from large sets of data is to view it graphically. Greg Cook and students are working to tailor a multiplatform application for this purpose.

Dissertations as Web documents

Or is it, Web documents as dissertations? Thomas Law has received permission to prepare his dissertation as a Web document. He sees this as much more than just having his dissertation available via the Web. He believes in the value of having a document that is not constrained by the linear sequential view of a document imposed by traditional print media. Visit http://www.wfu.edu/~lawct to read his thoughts on why this is important.

Using Your ThinkPad in the Classroom

Step-by-step instructions on how to hook up your ThinkPad and use the AV equipment to display items in the main classrooms.

Visit the CELI page to learn about other computer enhanced learning activities at Wake Forest.

Send comments on this page to matthews@wfu.edu.