Online Course

Mechanics Online

Welcome to Summer Mechanics Online by RELATE

Mechanics Online is designed as a second course in Introductory Newtonian Mechanics. The summer 2013 course is intended for teachers, advanced high school students, and curious and dedicated individuals who have some familiarity with introductory mechanics. The RELATE course is more challenging than a standard high school or introductory college physics offering. We assume that you already know F=ma, and concentrate on giving you a global view of mechanics that combines with a systematic procedure for solving challenging problems – especially those involving several concepts at once.

What is Mechanics?

Mechanics is the study of how forces change motion. Newton’s Law F=ma leads rigorously to concepts like momentum, torque, work, and energy. These concepts underlie physics and other sciences, and form the foundation for many branches of engineering, starting with Mechanical Engineering.

Why might you want to take this course?

Take it to increase your mechanics expertise, to prepare for advanced standing exams, to improve your teaching, or if you enjoy attacking challenging problems!

Opportunities for Teachers

Teachers in the United States who successfully complete the course will be invited to receive a Continuing Education Units Transcript from the AAPT. (detailed information coming) Teachers in the state of Massachusetts will be able to receive PDPs for completing the course.

This course uses edX, an online learning system.

Why are we offering the course?

This course is part of a research project by Professor David Pritchard and the RELATE education group at MIT to better understand student learning and, in particular, how to develop more expert skills. It embodies this group’s highly successful problem-solving pedagogy in an online learning environment where instruction, assessment, and interactions with other students are blended together and where students control their instructional path. We study student learning in this system to improve both the environment and the amount learned. The long range goal at RELATE is to design a learning experience where the activities are adjusted to the current needs and ability level of individual learners. This course is separate from MIT’s MITx and OCW programs.

Registration Process

Registration for the course is now open! Introductory materials will be available on June 1st. The first homework is due in mid-June, and the first quiz is late June. Instruction runs through August 25th, with several optional units available through mid-September.

Samples of activities in the course


You can email questions or comments to

Professor David E. Pritchard

Dave Pritchard studied at Caltech (B.S. 1962) and Harvard (Ph.D. 1968) before coming to M.I.T., where he is Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics. He is a pioneer in atomic collisions, van der Waals molecules, atom optics, atom interferometry, and precision mass spectrometry. His group invented the magneto-optical trap and the Ioffe-Pritchard trap.

Pritchard has mentored three Nobel prize winners and four winners of national thesis awards. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy for Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America. He has won the Broida and Schawlow prizes from APS, the Max Born Award from OSA, and the IUPAP Senior Scientist Medal in Fundamental Metrology.

Pritchard has a lifelong interest in teaching problem solving. He is the author of a Mechanics Workbook and the PI of the RELATE education group. He co-founded Effective Educational Technologies which developed myCyberTutor, the precursor to Pearson’s,, etc. read more…


This course represents the contributions of many people, and has grown out of three research themes of the RELATE group: work on assessment, the Modeling Applied to Problem Solving pedagogy, and the Integrated Learning Environment for Mechanics. It has been supported by NSF, NIH, Google, and MIT (Alumni Class Funds, Cecil and Ida Green Chair, Dean of Science, Department of Physics, Provost, and Research Laboratory of Electronics)

DISCLAIMER: This course is a research project of Prof. Pritchard and the RELATE educational research group to study learning and to improve teaching. It is not part of MIT’s OCW or of MITx, nor is it an official offering of the MIT Department of Physics. You will not receive MIT course credit.

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