Physics research both drives and relies upon the most up-to-date mathematics and computer science methodology. Therefore an essential element of a Physics major is the development of students' computer programming skills. This project aims to significantly improve the skills of students by embedding computer programming training within the major from Level 1. To achieve this, the project will develop an integrated set of on-line educational resources/assessments and explore their effectiveness in large cohort units of UWA Physics in 2016.
Online self-directed learning resources will be developed to teach programming skills and paradigms, with applications to physics problems and data. Four modules will be developed to complement the laboratory work and provide an introduction to programming. Online resources will also be developed for insertion into the regular assignments and students will be tested before and after the embedded learning experience in Level 1 2016, and compared against a control group entering Level 2 in 2016. Based on the results of this testing, the Level 1 resources and methodology may be reviewed and modified, and a plan for embedding programming in Levels 2 and 3 will be developed.
The project's goal is to develop students' computer programming capabilities as a set of transferable skills that they can use to deepen their understanding of coursework material, and for self-exploration and discovery, thereby developing their overall research outlook. Programming skills are an essential and enabling skill for scientists and engineers in this age of "Big Data", and are directly transferable to a wide range of research and professional contexts, which will help improve student's employment prospects.