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Online Ecampus Courses

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The Department of Physics of Oregon State University offers the following online physics classes delivered through OSU's Ecampus program, ranked in the top ten programs for online learning in the nation.

  • General Physics with Calculus sequence
  • General Physics sequence (Algebra-based)
  • Introductory Astronomy sequence
  • Descriptive Astronomy: Stars and the Universe
  • Energy Alternatives

These courses are offered on a quarter system. All courses fulfill Bacc core course requirements for a science course with lab.

Learn more about taking classes online
Visit the Ecampus physics course catalog

General Physics with Calculus

PH 211 topics include Newtonian mechanics: an in-depth of treatment kinematics, relative motion, forces, work and energy, momentum and impulse.

PH 212 topics include uniform and non-uniform circular motion, gravitation, rotational motion, torque, angular momentum, oscillations, waves, wave optics and ray optics.

PH 213 topics include electric charge, electric force, electric fields, circuits with resistors, capacitors and inductors, inductance, magnetic fields, and electromagnetic waves.

These online courses are taught in a manner as similar to on-campus courses as possible. The students are polled before the beginning of term to find the most accommodating time for live Zoom sessions with interactive problem solving exercises. There are asynchronous alternatives for every assignment. Lecture videos are posted along with a suite of instructional videos on many topics.

Midterm exams are replaced with bi-weekly quizzes with a cumulative final exam. Proctoring is done with a variety of options: via Zoom at the regular class time, via Zoom at an evening hour, via Proctorio or in approved testing centers.

Labs consist of mostly hands-on activities with experiments built using readily available materials. There is no lab fee. Small lab groups interact via discussion boards and Zoom meetings with each other and with a trained lab TA with weekly scheduled meeting to accommodate availability.

PH 221, PH 222 and PH 223 constitute accompanying online recitation courses. These are not generally required but may be required by some majors.

General Physics (Algebra-based)

PH 201 topics include Newtonian mechanics: vectors, kinematics, forces, energy and momentum.

PH 202 topics include rotational mechanics (statics and dynamics), thermodynamics (microscopic and macroscopic), oscillations and traveling waves.

PH 203 topics include oscillations and waves, wave optics, ray optics, electric fields, electric potential, resistive circuits, magnetism and magnetic induction.

These online courses are taught in a manner as similar to on-campus courses as possible with live Zoom sessions utilizing interactive problem solving exercises. There are asynchronous alternatives for every assignment. Lecture videos are posted along with a suite of instructional videos on many topics.

Labs are completely online and consist of mostly hands-on activities with experiments built using lab kits appropriate for each term. Students work in small lab groups interacting with each other and with a trained lab TA.

Introductory Astronomy

These courses are offered as a sequence but do not depend on each other. They may be taken singly or in any order.

Online labs are done individually by students in a variety of formats. Direct observation is performed throughout the term in the Night Sky Journal. Students may submit virtual observations in cases where weather, light pollution or safety factors are an issue. Some labs are performed using high quality interactive software such as the NASA EYES or PhET simulations. Some lab exercises take part in citizen-science research projects such as the Zooniverse project.

Student-student interaction is nurtured via a novel set of discussion-based assignments where students interact in small groups researching interconnected topics of their choosing.

Midterm and final exams are proctored using Proctorio or approved in-person testing centers.

PH 205 Solar System Astronomy topics include the Solar system as a whole with emphasis on formation. Chapters are devoted to individual planets with distinction made between terrestrial planets and gas and ice giants. Jupiter is treated in some detail as a system with the Galilean moons. Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are treated in comparison and contrast. Comets, asteroids and Kuiper belt objects round out the topics.

PH 206 Stars and Stellar Evolution begins with a study of light and spectroscopy. The Sun is covered in some detail, focusing on fusion in the core and energy transport through the various layers of the Sun. Stars in general are treated next with special attention to spectral types and the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Stellar formation, evolution and explosions are covered for Sunlike stars and then for massive stars, finishing with neutron stars and black holes.

PH 207 Galaxies, Cosmology and Life in the Universe first focuses on our own galaxy and then expands to treat galaxies in general, including galaxy classifications, and galaxy formation and evolution. Cosmology is covered next with emphasis on observation of the universe including large scale structure and evidence of the nature of the universe. The Big Bang theory and timeline of the evolution of the universe are discussed including dark matter and dark energy. The term finished with a treatment of the search for life in the universe beyond our own planet, seeking to develop an understanding of life itself.

Descriptive Astronomy

PH 107 Descriptive Astronomy: Stars and the Universe examines the structure and lifecycle of the Sun and other stars, and how stars evolve to form white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. Explores galaxies and cosmology, as well as the roles of dark matter and dark energy. Reviews and integrates the basic physics concepts and mathematics required to understand how we have learned what we know about the Universe.

Energy Alternatives

PH 313 defines energy and power, and the basic forms of energy from the viewpoint of physics, and classifies energy based on the way power is generated (renewable and non-renewable energy sources). PH 313 defines the main types of power generation processes and the efficiency and advantage/disadvantages of each. PH 313 discusses electric and fuel cell vehicles, high-capacity batteries, fuel cells, and the infrastructure needed to make these vehicles competitive with hydrocarbon powered transportation. PH 313 defines the transference and efficiency of electric power over long-distance power grids and addresses the global distribution of non-renewable fossil fuels and their decline in usage. PH 313 describes the theories of novel energy technologies and the potential use of direct and indirect energy as weapons systems. PH 313 discusses the economic, political, and social ramifications of energy systems and their historical applications, patterns of energy consumption, sustainability, and current governmental policies and subsidies regarding energy production and use.