Course Exam—Physics 200

PHYS 200 (Introductory Physics) is a three-credit introductory physics course in algebra-based physics that introduces classical mechanics and includes a hands-on laboratory component.  PHYS 200, combined with either PHYS 201 (Introductory Physics II) or PHYS 202 (Introductory Physics III), is the equivalent of one year of introductory physics.  There are no prerequisites for this course, but students should be aware that this course is charged an additional lab fee.

Introductory Physics is made up of ten units, six laboratory experiments, assignments weighing twenty percent, lab reports weighing twenty percent, a midterm examination weighing twenty percent, and a final examination weighing forty percent.  The ten units within this course cover topics, such as kinematics, circular motion, gravitation, statics, torque, energy resources, friction, drag, elasticity, and linear momentum.  Students’ final grades are based on the marks achieved in two assignments, six lab reports, and two examinations.  To receive credit for PHYS 200, students must achieve a minimum of fifty percent on the final examination and on the lab component, and a course composite grade of at least fifty percent.  Students do not need to pass the midterm to be able to pass this course.

Dr. Farook Al-Shamali has been working at Athabasca University since 2001 and has been the course coordinator for PHYS 200 for about fifteen years.  Alongside PHYS 200 he also coordinates and tutors PHYS 201 (Introductory Physics II), PHYS 202 (Introductory Physics III), PHYS 204 (Physics for Scientists and Engineers I), PHYS 205 (Physics for Scientists and Engineers II), PHYS 210 (Conceptual Physics), and PHYS 495 (Physics Projects I).

He states, “I received B.Sc. (Honors) in physics, B.Sc. (Honors) in geophysics and M.Sc. in physics from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia (  I also received a Ph.D.  in theoretical particle physics in 1998 from the University of Alberta (”

He continues, “I joined Athabasca University in 2001, and I am currently the Academic Coordinator for the physics courses.  I have teaching experience in conventional and distance education systems and with publications in particle physics, geomagnetism, and physics education.  My current interests include effective design of online courses and the development of low-cost home lab experiments.”

When asked to describe PHYS 200 and to provide some information regarding the structure of the course, he states “PHYS 200 is a high enrollment course with students registering from all parts of the country, in addition to some international students.  The course is algebra-based and has no pre-requisites.  However, high school physics would be helpful.”

Expanding on the course, Dr. Al-Shamali tells us that “The PHYS 200 course is based on the OpenStax College Physics eTextbook, which is an open source material.  Students are also provided with a carefully written Study Guide, which includes additional discussions and explanations and a large number of textbook problems solved in detail.  The study material appears online in html code and uses the MathJax JavaScript platform, which combines the accessibility of html and the beauty of LaTeX mathematical equations.  An important feature is the inclusion of interactive activities developed using the dynamic capabilities of Mathematica, in addition to some online simulations.  Students are able to interact with objects moving in real time and appreciate the relationship between position, velocity and acceleration.  The responsive design of the course website makes it mobile friendly.”

He went on to say, “The course involves a hands-on lab component, which consists of six lab experiments.  The home lab manual allows students to perform full (and quality) lab experiments at home using personal smartphones, video analysis software, and some common household items.  The Science Lab personnel are also available to help with any technical issue related to lab equipment.  In addition to the lab reports, students are evaluated based on two assignments (18 questions each), one midterm, and a final examination.  Sample examinations with formula sheets are available on the course website.  Limited tutor service is provided to registered students via e-mail and phone.  Most students who make the effort to complete the course do so successfully.”

When asked for any advice for anyone who is currently enrolled or about to enroll, he states “Unlike many other subjects, performance in a physics exam does not only depend on how much you know, but on how well you know! Therefore, when attempting a physics question your focus should be on achieving deeper understanding of concepts.  Memorizing procedures of specific problems may not be an effective strategy.  It is important to understand the physics behind the solution without being lost in the mathematical details.”

Furthermore, he states “The sample exams are not meant to prepare you for the exam, but rather to check how ready you appear to be.  My advice is to solve as many problems as you can, while simulating actual exam conditions (20 min per problem and referring only to the formula sheet when possible).  The end-of-chapter problems constitute a good resource for practice questions.  Also note that the final exam is comprehensive, with the majority of the questions relevant to the second half of the course.”

When asked which students he would recommend this course to, he states “This would be a suitable course for any program that require 2 (or 6) credits of introductory general physics.  Examples include (but not limited to) pre-med, neuroscience, radiology, biology, geology, nursing, computer science, environmental science, education, art, and business.”

When asked what he thinks students would take away from PHYS 200, he concludes “Physics is not a content-based subject, but rather a way of thinking.  The critical thinking skills gained from the course should help to enhance the analytical mind and skills of the students which should reflect positively on all aspects of their lives.  The course outcomes also provide a foundation to many subjects related to science and applied science.”

Whether PHYS 200 is a degree requirement of yours or the topics mentioned above are of interest to you, this course will have you learning interesting algebra-based physics concepts about movement and motion.

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