Instructor: Stephen T. Thornton, Professor of Physics
Office telephone 434-924-6808
Email address:


This is the first of a three-semester course sequence (6310, 6320, 6330) for primarily high-school physics teachers or those wanting to teach physics. PHYS 6310 is a calculus-based course that covers mechanics, oscillations, fluids, and thermodynamics. PHYS 6320 covers electricity, magnetism, waves, sound, and optics, and PHYS 6330 covers modern physics including relativity. All three courses are now offered online. We believe that it is important to obtain conceptual understanding of physics and problem solving ability.

Collab. This course is organized around Collab, the UVa version of Sakai, which is a learning management system used by over 350 educational organizations. You will obtain access to the complete organization of this course on Collab after you are registered for the course. Collab access is password protected. All the lecture videos, PowerPoint slides, and problem solving videos are accessed through Collab. There are 39 lecture videos (each approximately 25-40 minutes long), PowerPoint slides for each lecture, and about 70 problem-solving videos from end-of-chapter problems (similar to the homework problems) showing you how to use good solving problem techniques to solve numerical problems. The problem-solving videos are each 5-10 minutes long. Professor Thornton has done all the videos. Conceptual understanding is stressed in the lecture videos, which each lecture utilizing several Conceptual Quizzes for you to test your understanding of the material. Each lecture begins with a Reading Quiz on that lecture's reading assignment.




Browser Issues. You may find sometimes when trying to view videos that the browser may block the content, because browser software is becoming more concerned about security issues. For example, perhaps only the title of the video is shown, but the video does not appear. We have found that the videos can be seen by unblocking these security constraints. We can vouch that the videos are safe.


Internet Explorer: We have not observed any issues with IE, but if you do, click on the alert box at the bottom and allow the content.

Firefox: Click on the small shield shaped icon to the left of the URL at the top and allow the content. We have this issue for every video!

Chrome: Click on the shield (next to the star) on the far right of the URL line and click on "Load unsafe scripts". At least that is what I do on my computer, and the video appears!
Safari: I have not been told anything about Safari.


Sample Resources

Lecture 1

Lecture video
Lecture slides
Sample Problem Solution Video

Lecture 6

Lecture video (deleted, too long)
Lecture slides
Sample Problem Solution Video


Physics for Scientists & Engineers, 4th edition (2008) by Douglas Giancoli.
This textbook comes in several versions:
Chapters 1-37, ISBN 0-13-227559-7. This is the one we recommend. This is the hardback version. Paperback versions come in Vol. I and II. We will cover Chapters 1-14, 17-20 in PHYS 6310 and 15, 16, 21-35 in 6320. We will not cover Chapters 36-44 in these two courses. You will probably want the 4th edition. We do not require you to purchase the textbook. If you feel strongly that you want to use an earlier version like the 3rd ed or another author's textbook, we do not prohibit it. However, you are responsible for the material assigned in the syllabus for Giancoli's 4th ed.

You may also find useful the Student Study Guide & Selected Solutions Manual for this textbook. This guide/manual is authored by Frank L.H. Wolfs. The ISBN number for Vol. I for this course is 978-0-13-227324-4. If you expect to have difficulty with this physics course, we recommend you obtain this guide/manual.


Your grade in PHYS 6310 will be determined by (subject to change)

3 Midterm Exams
Final Exam

This is a graduate credit course for K-12 teachers. It is not a graduate level physics course and is not appropriate for those desiring to teach at the college level, including community colleges. The lowest passing grade for all graduate credit courses at UVa is B-. I have no set score levels for A+, A, A-, B+, B, B- or F. In order words, the grades are curved.

All exams (midterm and final) will be a mixture of conceptual questions and homework-like numerical problems. All exams will be multiple choice and are closed book. You will be allowed to use one 8 1/2" x 11" size piece of paper for each exam with anything written on it that you choose, both front and back. There are time limits given on WebAssign for taking each exam. You must have a Proctor for monitoring your exams, which will be on WebAssign. A proctor can be a supervisor, principal, superintendent, department chair, secretary, administrative personnel at your school, or professional colleague or another teacher. You can also use proctoring facilities at your local community college. Many community colleges offer such services free of charge. No relatives, in-laws, spouses or social friends are allowed to be proctors.

It is the proctor's responsibility to assure me you took the exam according to the given instructions given in the paragraph above and that you abided by the UVa honor code. You will download the exam with your proctor present, which will start the clock for taking the exam. At that time the proctor checks to be sure that you are abiding by the instructions for taking the exam. I will email you and the proctor instructions for taking the exam. The proctor does not have to be present during the entire time you are taking the exam. At least three days before taking any exam you must email me your proctor's name, professional relationship with you, title, email address, and telephone. After you have submitted the exam on WebAssign, your proctor will email you and me ( the words "(your name) took the exam according to the rules and the honor system" to inform me that you took the exam according to the rules and the honor system. If the proctor does not concur, then the proctor emails me the words "(your name) did not take the exam according to the rules and the honor system" .

You must have a calculator for the exams, but no other electronic devices will be allowed. This includes, but is not limited to, computers, PDAs, cell phones, smart phones, etc. The calculator you use may not be one that is incorporated into one of these latter devices. Any use of these forbidden devices on an exam will be considered an honor offense.


You will have homework due weekly. It will be done using the Internet service WebAssign. The homework will normally be due weekly on WebAssign on Monday morning at 5 am. You will both find your homework and submit your homework answers on WebAssign. See the Introduction and General Information for more information.

Link to WebAssign for UVa students and faculty. Look here for homework. Your username and password are the same as your UVa email account.

Student Guide to WebAssign. Look here if you need help in using WebAssign. NOTE: Sections 1, 2, and 3.3 do not apply to UVa students accessing WebAssign via WebAssign for UVa link.  UVa folks use their CMS username and password to log in.

You typically will receive 10 submissions on WebAssign to obtain the correct answer. This means the average homework score in the class will be very high. Many of you will obtain 100%, and the average score is likely to be near 95%. This means your grade will suffer considerably if you do not do the homework. We believe it is essential to success in this class.

We encourage you to try every problem by yourself for the first 3 or so submissions. It probably will not be possible, but if you can find another student to help with homework, that is useful. The homework is not pledged, but you serve yourself a great disjustice if you do not do it yourself. Do not be surprised if you sometimes see a question similar to the homework on a midterm or final exam. WebAssign uses random numbers so that each student has different numbers and answers for your homework.

Help with Homework and Physics in General. You may think that receiving help in an online course is not possible. That is not true. We utilize the Collab system, the UVa version of Sakai, a nationwide computer system operated by several universities that is similar to Blackboard. You will be able to ask questions about homework problems and physics questions in particular on the Discussion board on Collab. We have found this to be an effective teaching technique and will serve the same purpose as Office Hours in a regular campus-based course.. It is not a tutoring service.

How to Succeed in This Course - click here

Click on the following for further information:

Introduction and General Information. It is very important for you to read this.