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College Physics (beta)


College Physics 1 (beta) is a one-semester course covering classical mechanics, work, energy, sound, fluid statics and dynamics, and thermodynamics. 


The College Physics 1 (beta) course is an algebra-based Physics course covering classical mechanics, work, energy, sound, fluid Statics and dynamics, and thermodynamics. The course covers all the topics included in the first semester of College Physics and includes formative assessments with scaffolding, and summative assessments at the end of each module. 

The course is grounded in real-world examples, interactives, lecture videos, simulations, and scaffolded practice problems all designed in a logical flow. The course also has an introductory module in Mathematics containing essential Trigonometry and Algebra review needed for problem solving in the course.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This version of Physics is in the beta phase of development. Please review and use any of the modules you wish, as we work in the background to add more interaction and practice opportunities with targeted feedback, aligned with skills. The full release will be made in fall 2021. Modules 4: Motion in One Dimension (Kinematics), and 6: Motion in Two Dimensions, are particular exemplars of the final version. We encourage you to use these modules with your class to get a feel for how this course fits into your overall curriculum and to offer feedback about the content, structure, and usability.
With our commitment to continuous improvement, OLI plans further development efforts at the same time that we also review and incorporate your feedback, to offer an updated version of the full course for Summer 2021 use. At that time, we will continue development for the final version to be ready for Fall 2021.

What students will learn

Topics Covered:

  1. Introduction to Physics 
  2. Motion in one-dimension (Kinematics) 
  3. Vectors 
  4. Motion in two-dimensions (Projectile Motion, Relative Velocity, etc) 
  5. Newton’s Laws of Motion 
  6. Applications of Newton’s Laws 
  7. Circular motion 
  8. Momentum
  9. Energy and Work  
  10. Rotational Motion
  11. Oscillations and Waves
  12. Sound
  13. Fluid Statics, Fluid Dynamics 
  14. Thermodynamics 

Learning objectives

  • Module 3: Introduction to Physics 
    • Explain the difference between a principle and a law.
    • Explain the difference between a model and a theory.
    • Perform unit conversions both in the SI and English units.
    • Explain the most common prefixes in the SI units and be able to write them in scientific notation.
    • Determine the appropriate number of significant figures in both addition and subtraction, as well as multiplication and division calculations.
    • Calculate the percent uncertainty of a measurement.

    Module 4: Motion in One-Dimension 

    • Define position, displacement, distance, and distance traveled.
    • Explain the relationship between position and displacement.
    • Distinguish between displacement and distance traveled.
    • Calculate displacement and distance given initial position, final position, and the path between the two.
    • Define and distinguish between scalar and vector quantities.
    • Assign a coordinate system for a scenario involving one-dimensional motion.
    • Explain the relationships between instantaneous velocity, average velocity, instantaneous speed, average speed, displacement, and time.
    • Calculate velocity and speed given initial position, initial time, final position, and final time.
    • Derive a graph of velocity vs. time given a graph of position vs. time.
    • Interpret a graph of velocity vs. time.
    • Define and distinguish between instantaneous acceleration, average acceleration, and deceleration.
    • Calculate acceleration given initial time, initial velocity, final time, and final velocity.
    • Calculate displacement of an object that is not accelerating, given initial position and velocity.
    • Calculate final velocity of an accelerating object, given initial velocity, acceleration, and time.
    • Calculate displacement and final position of an accelerating object, given initial position, initial velocity, time, and acceleration.
    • Apply problem-solving steps and strategies to solve problems of one-dimensional kinematics.
    • Apply strategies to determine whether or not the result of a problem is reasonable, and if not, determine the cause.
    • Describe the effects of gravity on objects in motion.
    • Describe the motion of objects that are in free fall.
    • Calculate the position and velocity of objects in free fall.
    • Describe a straight-line graph in terms of its slope and y-intercept.
    • Determine average velocity or instantaneous velocity from a graph of position vs. time.
    • Determine average or instantaneous acceleration from a graph of velocity vs. time.
    • Derive a graph of velocity vs. time from a graph of position vs. time.
    • Derive a graph of acceleration vs. time from a graph of velocity vs. time.

    Module 5: Vectors

    • Explain motion in two dimensions consisting of horizontal and vertical components.
    • Describe the independence of horizontal and vertical vectors in two-dimensional motion.
    • Explain the rules of vector addition, subtraction, and multiplication.
    • Apply graphical methods of vector addition and subtraction to determine the displacement of moving objects.
    • Explain the rules of vector addition and subtraction using analytical methods.
    • Apply analytical methods to determine vertical and horizontal component vectors.
    • Apply analytical methods to determine the magnitude and direction of a resultant vector.

    Module 6: Motion in Two-Dimensions 

    • Identify and explain the properties of a projectile, such as acceleration due to gravity, range, maximum height, and trajectory.
    • Determine the location and velocity of a projectile at different points in its trajectory.
    • Apply the principle of independence of motion to solve projectile motion problems.
    • Apply principles of vector addition to determine relative velocity.
    • Explain the significance of the observer in the measurement of velocity.

    Module 7: Newton’s Laws of Motion 

    • Define mass and inertia.
    • Explain Newton’s first law of motion.
    • Define net force, external force, and system.
    • Explain Newton’s second law of motion.
    • Apply Newton’s second law to determine the weight of an object.
    • Explain Newton’s third law of motion.
    • Apply Newton’s third law to define systems and solve problems of motion.
    • Define normal and tension forces.
    • Apply Newton’s laws of motion to solve problems involving a variety of forces.
    • Use trigonometric identities to resolve weight into components.
    • Explain and apply a problem-solving procedure to solve problems using Newton’s laws of motion.
    •  Apply a problem-solving procedure to solve problems using Newton’s laws of motion.
    • Apply problem-solving techniques to solve for quantities in more complex systems of forces.
    • Integrate concepts from kinematics to solve problems using Newton’s laws of motion.
    • Explain the four basic forces that underlie the processes in nature.

    Module 8: Applications of Newton’s Laws of Motion

    • Discuss the general characteristics of friction.
    • Describe the various types of friction.
    • Calculate the magnitude of static and kinetic friction.
    • Express mathematically the drag force.
    • Discuss the applications of drag force.
    • Define terminal velocity.
    • Determine the terminal velocity given mass.
    • State Hooke’s law.
    • Explain Hooke’s law using graphical representation between deformation and applied force.
    • Discuss the three types of deformations such as changes in length, sideways shear and changes in volume.
    • Describe with examples the young’s modulus, shear modulus and bulk modulus.
    • Determine the change in length given mass, length and radius.

    Module 9: Circular Motion

    • Define arc length, rotation angle, radius of curvature and angular velocity.
    • Calculate the angular velocity of a car wheel spin.
    • Establish the expression for centripetal acceleration.
    • Explain the centrifuge.
    • Calculate coefficient of friction on a car tire.
    • Calculate ideal speed and angle of a car on a turn.
    • Discuss the inertial frame of reference.
    • Discuss the non-inertial frame of reference.
    • Describe the effects of the Coriolis force.
    • Explain Earth’s gravitational force.
    • Describe the gravitational effect of the Moon on Earth.
    • Discuss weightlessness in space.
    • Examine the Cavendish experiment
    • State Kepler’s laws of planetary motion.
    • Derive the third Kepler’s law for circular orbits.
    • Discuss the Ptolemaic model of the universe.

    Module 10: Momentum 

    • Define linear momentum.
    • Explain the relationship between momentum and force.
    • State Newton’s second law of motion in terms of momentum.
    • Calculate momentum given mass and velocity.
    • Define impulse.
    • Describe effects of impulses in everyday life.
    • Determine the average effective force using graphical representation.
    • Calculate average force and impulse given mass, velocity, and time.
    • Describe the principle of conservation of momentum.
    • Derive an expression for the conservation of momentum.
    • Explain conservation of momentum with examples.
    • Explain the principle of conservation of momentum as it relates to atomic and subatomic particles.
    • Describe an elastic collision of two objects in one dimension.
    • Define internal kinetic energy.
    • Derive an expression for conservation of internal kinetic energy in a one dimensional collision.
    • Determine the final velocities in an elastic collision given masses and initial velocities.
    • Define inelastic collision.
    • Explain perfectly inelastic collision.
    • Describe applications of collisions in sports.
    • Determine recoil velocity and loss in kinetic energy given mass and initial velocity.
    • Discuss two dimensional collisions as an extension of one dimensional analysis.
    • Define point masses.
    • Derive an expression for conservation of momentum along x-axis and y-axis.
    • Describe elastic collisions of two objects with equal mass.
    • Determine the magnitude and direction of the final velocity given initial velocity, and scattering angle.
    • State Newton’s third law of motion.
    • Explain the principle involved in propulsion of rockets and jet engines.
    • Derive an expression for the acceleration of the rocket and discuss the factors that affect the acceleration.
    • Describe the function of a space shuttle.

    Module 11: Energy and Work 

    • Explain how an object must be displaced for a force on it to do work.
    • Explain how relative directions of force and displacement determine whether the work done is positive, negative, or zero.
    • Explain work as a transfer of energy and net work as the work done by the net force.
    • Explain and apply the work-energy theorem.
    • Explain gravitational potential energy in terms of work done against gravity.
    • Show that the gravitational potential energy of an object of mass m at height h on Earth is given by PEg =mgh
    • Show how knowledge of the potential energy as a function of position can be used to simplify calculations and explain physical phenomena.
    • Define conservative force, potential energy, and mechanical energy.
    • Explain the potential energy of a spring in terms of its compression when Hooke’s law applies.
    • Use the work-energy theorem to show how having only conservative forces implies conservation of mechanical energy.
    • Define nonconservative forces and explain how they affect mechanical energy.
    • Show how the principle of conservation of energy can be applied by treating the conservative forces in terms of their potential energies and any nonconservative forces in terms of the work they do.
    • Explain the law of the conservation of energy.
    • Describe some of the many forms of energy.
    • Define efficiency of an energy conversion process as the fraction left as useful energy or work, rather than being transformed, for example, into thermal energy.
    • Calculate power by calculating changes in energy over time.
    • Examine power consumption and calculations of the cost of energy consumed.
    • Explain the human body’s consumption of energy when at rest vs. when engaged in activities that do useful work.
    • Calculate the conversion of chemical energy in food into useful work.
    • Describe the distinction between renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.
    • Explain why the inevitable conversion of energy to less useful forms makes it necessary to conserve energy resources.

    Module 12 Statics and Torque 

    • State the first condition of equilibrium.
    • Explain static equilibrium.
    • Explain dynamic equilibrium.
    • State the second condition that is necessary to achieve equilibrium.
    • Explain torque and the factors on which it depends.
    • Describe the role of torque in rotational mechanics.
    • State the types of equilibrium.
    • Describe stable and unstable equilibriums.
    • Describe neutral equilibrium.
    • Discuss the applications of Statics in real life.
    • State and discuss various problem-solving strategies in Statics.
    • Describe different simple machines.
    • Calculate the mechanical advantage.
    • Explain the forces exerted by muscles.
    • State how a bad posture causes back strain.
    • Discuss the benefits of skeletal muscles attached close to joints.
    • Discuss various complexities in the real system of muscles, bones, and joints.

    Module 13: Rotational Motion 

    • Describe uniform circular motion.
    • Explain non-uniform circular motion.
    • Calculate angular acceleration of an object.
    • Describe the link between linear and angular acceleration.
    • Describe the kinematics of rotational motion.
    • Derive rotational kinematic equations.
    • Evaluate problem solving strategies for rotational kinematics.
    • Describe the relationship between force, mass and acceleration.
    • Study the turning effect of force.
    • Study the analogy between force and torque, mass and moment of inertia, and linear acceleration and angular acceleration.
    • Derive the equation for rotational work.
    • Calculate rotational kinetic energy.
    • Demonstrate the Law of Conservation of Energy.
    • Explain the analogy between angular momentum and linear momentum.
    • Describe the relationship between torque and angular momentum.
    • Apply the law of conservation of angular momentum.
    • Describe collisions of extended bodies in two dimensions.
    • Examine collision at the point of percussion.
    • Describe the right-hand rule to find the direction of angular velocity, momentum, and torque.
    • Explain the gyroscopic effect.
    • Study how Earth acts like a gigantic gyroscope.

    Module 14: Oscillations and Waves 

    • Explain Newton’s third law of motion with respect to stress and deformation.
    • Describe the restoration of force and displacement.
    • Calculate the energy in Hooke’s Law of deformation, and the stored energy in a spring.
    • Describe the vibrations of a guitar string.
    • Determine the frequency of oscillations.
    • Describe a simple harmonic oscillator.
    • Explain the link between simple harmonic motion and waves.
    • Measure acceleration due to gravity.
    • Determine the maximum speed of an oscillating system.
    • Compare simple harmonic motion with uniform circular motion.
    • Compare and discuss underdamped and overdamped oscillating systems.
    • Explain a critically damped system.
    • Summarize resonance of a paddle ball on a string.
    • Summarize amplitude of a damped harmonic oscillator.
    • State the characteristics of a wave.
    • Calculate the velocity of wave propagation.
    • Explain standing waves.
    • Describe the mathematical representation of overtones and beat frequency.
    • Calculate the intensity and the power of rays and waves.

    Module 15: Sound  

    • Define sound and hearing.
    • Describe sound as a longitudinal wave.
    • Define pitch.
    • Describe the relationship between the speed of sound, its frequency, and its wavelength.
    • Describe the effects on the speed of sound as it travels through various media.
    • Describe the effects of temperature on the speed of sound.
    • Define intensity, sound intensity, and sound pressure level.
    • Calculate sound intensity levels in decibels (dB).
    • Define Doppler effect, Doppler shift, and sonic boom.
    • Calculate the frequency of a sound heard by someone observing Doppler shift.
    • Describe the sounds produced by objects moving faster than the speed of sound.
    • Define antinode, node, fundamental, overtones, and harmonics.
    • Identify instances of sound interference in everyday situations.
    • Describe how sound interference occurring inside open and closed tubes changes the characteristics of the sound, and how this applies to sounds produced by musical instruments.
    • Calculate the length of a tube using sound wave measurements.
    • Define hearing, pitch, loudness, timbre, note, tone, phon, ultrasound, and infrasound.
    • Compare loudness to frequency and intensity of a sound.
    • Identify structures of the inner ear and explain how they relate to sound perception.
    • Define acoustic impedance and intensity reflection coefficient.
    • Describe medical and other uses of ultrasound technology.
    • Calculate acoustic impedance using density values and the speed of ultrasound.
    • Calculate the velocity of a moving object using Doppler-shifted ultrasound.

    Module 16: Fluid Statics and Fluid Dynamics 

    • State the common phases of matter.
    • Explain the physical characteristics of solids, liquids, and gases.
    • Describe the arrangement of atoms in solids, liquids, and gases.
    • Define density.
    • Calculate the mass of a reservoir from its density.
    • Compare and contrast the densities of various substances.
    • Define pressure.
    • Explain the relationship between pressure and force.
    • Calculate force given pressure and area.
    • Define pressure in terms of weight.
    • Explain the variation of pressure with depth in a fluid.
    • Calculate density given pressure and altitude.
    • Define pressure.
    • State Pascal’s principle.
    • Describe applications of Pascal’s principle.
    • Derive relationships between forces in a hydraulic system.
    • Define gauge pressure and absolute pressure.
    • Explain the working of aneroid and open-tube barometers.
    • Define buoyant force.
    • State Archimedes’ principle.
    • Explain why objects float or sink.
    • Explain the relationship between density and Archimedes’ principle.
    • Explain cohesive and adhesive forces.
    • Define surface tension.
    • Describe capillary action.
    • Explain the concept of pressure in the human body.
    • Explain systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
    • Describe pressures in the eye, lungs, spinal column, bladder, and skeletal system.
    • Calculate flow rate.
    • Define units of volume.
    • Describe incompressible fluids.
    • Explain the consequences of the equation of continuity.
    • Explain the terms in Bernoulli’s equation.
    • Explain how Bernoulli’s equation is related to conservation of energy.
    • Explain how to derive Bernoulli’s principle from Bernoulli’s equation.
    • Calculate with Bernoulli’s principle.
    • List some applications of Bernoulli’s principle.
    • Calculate using Torricelli’s theorem.
    • Calculate power in fluid flow.
    • Define laminar flow and turbulent flow.
    • Explain what viscosity is.
    • Calculate flow and resistance with Poiseuille’s law.
    • Explain how pressure drops due to resistance.
    • Calculate Reynolds number.
    • Use the Reynolds number for a system to determine whether it is laminar or turbulent.
    • Calculate the Reynolds number for an object moving through a fluid.
    • Explain whether the Reynolds number indicates laminar or turbulent flow.
    • Describe the conditions under which an object has a terminal speed.
    • Define diffusion, osmosis, dialysis, and active transport.
    • Calculate diffusion rates.

    Module 17: Thermodynamics 

    • Define temperature.
    • Convert temperatures between the Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin scales.
    • Define thermal equilibrium.
    • State the zeroth law of thermodynamics.
    • Define and describe thermal expansion.
    • Calculate the linear expansion of an object given its initial length, change in temperature, and coefficient of linear expansion.
    • Calculate the volume expansion of an object given its initial volume, change in temperature, and coefficient of volume expansion.
    • Calculate thermal stress on an object given its original volume, temperature change, volume change, and bulk modulus.
    • State the ideal gas law in terms of molecules and in terms of moles.
    • Use the ideal gas law to calculate pressure change, temperature change, volume change, or the number of molecules or moles in a given volume.
    • Use Avogadro’s number to convert between the number of molecules and number of moles.
    • Express the ideal gas law in terms of molecular mass and velocity.
    • Define thermal energy.
    • Calculate the kinetic energy of a gas molecule, given its temperature.
    • Describe the relationship between the temperature of a gas and the kinetic energy of atoms and molecules.
    • Describe the distribution of speeds of molecules in a gas.
    • Define heat as transfer of energy.
    • Explain heat transfer and change in temperature and mass.
    • Calculate final temperature after heat transfer between two objects.
    • Examine heat transfer.
    • Calculate final temperature from heat transfer.
    • Discuss the different methods of heat transfer.
    • Define the first law of thermodynamics.
    • Describe how conservation of energy relates to the first law of thermodynamics.
    • Identify instances of the first law of thermodynamics working in everyday situations, including biological metabolism.
    • Calculate changes in the internal energy of a system, after accounting for heat transfer and work done.
    • Describe the processes of a simple heat engine.
    • Explain the differences among the simple thermodynamic processes—isobaric, isochoric, isothermal, and adiabatic.
    • Calculate total work done in a cyclical thermodynamic process.
    • State the expressions of the second law of thermodynamics.
    • Calculate the efficiency and carbon dioxide emission of a coal-fired electricity plant, using second law characteristics.
    • Describe and define the Otto cycle.
    • Identify a Carnot cycle.
    • Calculate maximum theoretical efficiency of a nuclear reactor.
    • Explain how dissipative processes affect the ideal Carnot engine.
    • Describe the use of heat engines in heat pumps and refrigerators.
    • Demonstrate how a heat pump works to warm an interior space.
    • Explain the differences between heat pumps and refrigerators.
    • Calculate a heat pump’s coefficient of performance.
    • Define entropy and calculate the increase of entropy in a system with reversible and irreversible processes.
    • Explain the expected fate of the universe in entropic terms.
    • Calculate the increasing disorder of a system.
    • Identify probabilities in entropy.
    • Analyze statistical probabilities in entropic systems.

Course assessments, activities, and outline

The course consists of:

  • practice activities
  • Physics text from Open Stax
  • videos
  • quizzes
  • reflection opportunities

Other course details

This is a one-semester course.

Spring 2021

Adapted from OpenStax College Physics by Tanvi Domadia, Cody Kowal, Prof. Vasudeva Aravind Rao, and Prof. Surajit Sen. 


System requirements

OLI system requirements, regardless of course:

  • internet access
  • an operating system that supports the latest browser update
  • the latest browser update (Chrome recommended; Firefox, Safari supported; Edge and Internet Explorer are supported but not recommended)
  • pop-ups enabled
  • cookies enabled

Some courses include exercises with exceptions to these requirements, such as technology that cannot be used on mobile devices.

This course’s system requirements:

  • N/A

Cost and payment options

$25 per student

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