Warmup exercises are used to encourage students to do reading ahead of time as well as to enhance communication between the professor and the students.
After class a new Warmup exercise is posted on the web that gives a reading assignment for the next class as well as asks several questions based on this reading. Ching-Wan Yip has set up a program so that when these exercises are submitted the answers to the questions are sent to the instructors e-mail account and the students id #, and the date and time of submission are written to a unix file for record keeping. An excel Macro can be used to gather the information in the unix file and put it into a excel spreadsheet.
The use of these Warmup exercises has been developed by Dr. Evelyn Patterson at the Air Force Academy
They are being used in Daniel Kim-Shapiro's Physics 114 class. Here is a sample Warmup exercise
One of the best things about the Warmup exercises are that students can include comments on the reading and the class in their submissions. Thus the instructor gets some feedback from every student. In some cases this feedback consists of only their answers to their questions but in many cases students comment on what parts of the lecture or reading they had the most trouble undertstanding. Some students are more comfortable communicating with the instructor this way than face to face.
Here are some examples of some feedback that Prof. Kim-Shapiro has received from students using the Warmup exercise as a way to communicate to the professor:
"Going through difficult problems may be time consuming; however, by working out the difficult problems in class step by step, the homework is easier to manage without tutoring and my overall understanding of the concepts involved is improved. Please, if time allows, continue to include problems similar to today's problem in future lectures."
"…I think the pace of the class is just right. We're not going so slow that I'm comatose, and not going so fast that I don't have a chance to understand. I have had a chance to understand everything that we've gone over in class…"
"… I am already totally lost in this chapter... Is there any way I could come by wednesday so we can go over chapter 23 again?"
"I have had difficulty conceptualizing what a "closed surface" is, and the connection between Gauss' Law and such surfaces."