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We have investigated the efficacy of on-line, multimedia learning modules (MLMs) as preparation for in-class, lecture-based tutorials in electromagnetism in a physics course for natural science majors (biology and marine science). Specifically, we report the results of a multiple-group pre/post-test research design comparing two groups receiving different treatments with respect to activities preceding participation in Tutorials in Introductory Physics. The different pre-tutorial activities were as follows: (1) students were assigned reading from a traditional textbook, followed by a traditional lecture; and (2) students completed on-line MLMs developed by the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC), and commercially known as FlipItPhysics. The MLM treatment group earned significantly higher mid-term examination scores and larger gains in content knowledge as measured by the Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism (CSEM). Student attitudes towards “reformed” instruction in the form of active-engagement tutorials were also improved. Specifically, post-course surveys showed that MLM-group students believed class time was more effective and the instructor was more clear than reported by non-MLM students, even though there was no significant difference between groups with respect to in-class activities and the same instructor taught both groups. MLM activities can be a highly effective tool for some student populations, especially when student preparation and buy-in are important for realizing significant gains.


© 2018 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


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