The MIT Course
Electromagnetism 2000
Value Added
Time Frame
Table of Contents


Electromagnetism is difficult to teach because we have little or no intuition about electromagnetic phenomena. This is very different from the case of mechanics, for example, where there is an intuitive sense of the nature of inertia, the gravitational force, friction, and many other concepts that are central to mechanics.

In contrast, most of the phenomena in electromagnetism are not accessible to everyday experience, except under poorly controlled conditions (for example, static electricity). As a result, teaching the subject effectively first requires instilling a sense of intuition about the phenomena.

This is almost never done well in an introductory course.

How can the use of advanced technology change this situation? One of the ways intuition is instilled is via large lecture demonstrations. These demonstrations are impressive, but they go by very rapidly, and cannot be reexamined at the student's leisure. In contrast, with advanced technologies, one can present a video clip of an experiment accompanied by a hypertext explanation of the phenomena it demonstrates. This video can be viewed repeatedly.

The accompanying hypertext explanation can consist of both equations and figures, as well as computer graphics which simulate what is happening in the experiment. Such computer simulations can show things which can never be seen otherwise, and in a compelling way.

Electromagnetic field phenomena in particular lend themselves to effective explanation through graphical animation/simulation.

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Copyright © 1996 John Belcher . All rights reserved.
Revised February 28, 1997,