practical info

The different topics in this section help you to decide whether or not this course is suitable/useful/interesting for you. You learn how the course is organized, and you can try out the different tools that we will be using. You can set up accounts where needed, and register to a mailing list. Other practical information is about the due dates for tasks (due dates are relevant for for-credit students only) and the dates of the livestreamed feedback webinars (when you take this course in sync with students at Ghent University). Don’t forget to have a look at the study hints, in particular if you are new to online learning.

This course is meant for physicists, chemists, engineers or other scientists who need a good conceptual understanding of hyperfine interactions. With ‘conceptual understanding’ we mean: understanding the physical principles behind hyperfine interactions is in this course more important than mathematical derivations. Once you understand the concepts, you will be able to make sense of the many mathematically inspired books on this topic yourself. While trying to study a mathematical hyperfine interaction book without having understood those concepts first, might not be easy.

The expected entry level for this course is a general science background at bachelor level. That means that you should have had introductory courses about classical mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and a little bit of quantum physics.

This course is the first one of a series of two. In the present course, hyperfine interactions as a physical phenomenon play the major role. The second course in the series focuses on understanding the concepts of experimental methods that rely on hyperfine interactions. These two courses can be taken independently from each other. Just be aware that for the second course a good conceptual understanding of hyperfine interactions is a strict prerequisite.

These two courses can be taken as free, open online courses by anyone with an internet connection. You can take them self-paced, or in sync with the yearly edition of these courses in the spring term at Ghent University, Belgium (February-May). Volunteering participants may obtain an inofficial certificate that has no legal value whatsoever. Students registered at Ghent University, or students from other universities where this course is adopted by a local staff member, can get regular credit as foreseen in their study program.

This course is an online course, designed to serve simultaneously regular on-campus students as well as volunteering students anywhere in the world. The latter have the choice to take the course in sync with the spring term edition in Ghent, Belgium (February-May), or to take it self-paced. The weekly classroom session takes the form of a feedback webinar, that is livestreamed and recorded.

If you take this course in February-May, synchronized with the live edition, then this is what you can expect:

The spring term has 12 weeks, interrupted by a 2 week Easter break. Each week corresponds to a section of this online course (6 for part A, 6 for part B). You are expected to watch the videos of that week, and to make the associated tasks. When you submit your answer to a task, there is in most cases immediate automated feedback. If after this feedback you still have questions, you can submit your question to a dedicated forum. Your fellow students might help you out, or they can second your question. Every week there is a feedback session where those questions are discussed that were not answered, or that are shared by many students. There is no lecturing during the feedback session, all lecturing happens online via prerecorded videos. Those feedback sessions can be attended in person in class (not in 2021…), but they are also livestreamed and a recording is made available afterwards (that’s why we prefer to call them feedback webinars rather than sessions). Students from Ghent University are free to chose whether they attend these feedback webinars in person (not in 2021…) or online.

Students from Ghent University are graded for this course. Part of the credit is for submitting weekly reports in time. The other part is for the final exam. More details about this during the first feedback webinar. There is no official exam nor certificate provided for students that are not enrolled at a Flemish university, but for those students there is an inofficial honour’s certificate if they complete the required parts of the online course.

If you take this course at your own pace, at any time of the year, then this is what you can expect:

You go through the course at your own pace. You submit your answers to the tasks, and you get immediate automated feedback when available. If the feedback doesn’t clarify everything, or if you have additional questions, you can put them on the fora. If there is a fellow student around in the same time slot, he or she might help you out. If others have asked the same question before, you might find the answer in the recorded feedback webinars. If your question does not get answered, it may be addressed during one of the feedback webinars in the next February-May edition.

There is no official exam nor certificate provided for students that are not enrolled at a Flemish university, but for those students there is an inofficial honour’s certificate if they complete the required parts of the online course.

Studying in an online course is a little different from studying in a traditional face-to-face (f2f) course. Here are some hints that can help you to study in the most efficient way.

It can be a reassuring feeling to have all lectures permanently available as videos, only a few mouse clicks away. And this definitely has advantages. But be careful this doesn’t lure you into a trap. Merely watching a video is not the same as studying. And merely watching a video five times, doesn’t have much added value either. Whenever you watch a video, do the following:

  •    Make notes while watching. You can do this by typing if your prefer, or hand-written on the slide handouts that are provided with most videos. Ideally, notes allow you to restudy the content of the video using only your notes and the slide handouts, without a need to rewatch a video. And making notes forces you to be mentally engaged with the material, which means you are not merely watching yet you are studying.
  •    When the video goes too fast to allow you to take notes properly, just pause it (that’s a clear advantage over a face-2-face lecture). It’s better to be a bit slower and having excellent notes from which you can study, then being fast with incomprehensible notes that force you to rewatch a video when studying.
  •    If there is a section in a video you do not understand at once, you can rewind and watch that section again (here’s another advantage over a face-2-face lecture).
  •    If the video goes to slow for you, then feel free to use the speed-up button (one more advantage over a face-2-face lecture). I’m not a professional actor, and was not trained to make recordings when these videos were made. I discovered only later how slowly I speak. Some students like that (easier to make notes), others don’t. If it goes too slow for you, just speed it up. Or slow it down, in case you prefer it even slower.
  •    If there is a section in a video where you struggle, and which you would like to watch again later: write down the time stamp in your notes. Similarly, if there is a section you find particularly clear and you want to watch that one again while studying, write down the time stamp. You will not regret, it will save you hours of searching later on.
  •    You can watch these videos and do these tasks at a time that suits you best, and not necessarily in one continuous session either (needless to say: another advantage over face-2-face lectures). However, be sure to book time for these video moments in your agenda. When this course was still a face-2-face course, students came 2-3 times per week to campus for a lecture. You don’t need to do that any longer. But that doesn’t mean the work goes away. If you use the time that was previously occupied by those lectures for being more in the lab (or in a bar, or in your bed, for that matter), you still need to do the work for this course at another moment. You have the flexibility to choose your own time, but do plan it. Working for this course is a legitimate part of your activities, and it’s not because it is not planned for you by someone else that you shouldn’t plan it at all.

If you watch the videos in this way, you will be studying efficiently and the need to rewatch videos will be reduced to those sections where it really makes sense for you. That doesn’t mean it is forbidden to rewatch everything. Some students who did take good notes prefer to watch every video a second time before the exam, and get even more out of it with all the background knowledge they accumulated since then. Study habits are personal – go on and find the one that suits you best.

Campus students who take this course as an official course on their study program, have to submit weekly reports. The due date is always on Tuesday early morning (UTC). This is to make sure that there is sufficient time for the instructors to prepare the feedback webinar, one day later. It is definitely allowed to run ahead of the due dates. For instance, if you foresee you won’t have much time in week x+2, but you have less work in week x, it would be wise to cover the material of two weeks during week x.

International volunteers who take this course in sync with the live feedback webinars are strongly encouraged to observe the same due dates. This makes sure their questions too will be addressed during the feedback webinars. The richer the pool of questions is, the more all of us can learn.

International volunteers who take this course self-paced, should not care about the due dates.

For students from Ghent/Flanders: 4 out of the 20 exam points for this course are given for timely submitting your answers/reports. You get these 4 points already at the start of the term. If you submit your answers/reports before the due date, you keep them. Every week you do not submit your answers/reports in time, one of these 4 points is subtracted (with a floor of zero). Correctness of your answers does not matter (it’s the learning phase, hence it is allowed to make mistakes). Points will be subtracted only if a report is missing, or is clearly copied or made without fair effort.

Find the due dates for the present academic year here.

During the February-May time slot, there will be a weekly feedback webinar. Via this page, you can access the livestream of this webinar (an agenda is added underneath). After the webinar, a recorded video of the feedback webinar will be added after the corresponding section of the course. Students living in Ghent (or Flanders) can attend the feedback webinar in person, if they want.

Access to the livestream is here (opens in a new window).  (when no livestream is going on, this link replays the previous stream — all previous streams are also available via the feedback webinar page of the corresponding chapter in the course site)

When a stream is being broadcast, you’ll see it here too:

You can find the dates of the webinars in the present academic year here (scroll down to the second part of that page).

If you intend to take this course in sync with the feedback webinars during the spring term at Ghent University (February-May), then it is recommended to subscribe to a mailing list for administrative messages. Changes in the schedule, important modifications to the course sites, information in case of a site downtime,… will be posted to this list only (in order not to bother people who just want to walk around in this course at their convenience).

Zulip will be used as a tool for this communication. It is forum software. The forum (or ‘stream’ in Zulip slang) with the name ‘administration’ will send every message posted there also as an email. You can use other streams on Zulip for other purposes, without triggering emails.

If you did not yet register to Zulip for this course, do this by clicking this link. If you registered before, you can go directly to the streams by clicking here.

In order to configure the ‘administration’ stream such that it sends you the messages by email too, you have to do the following once:

  • Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner of the web or desktop app of Zulip.
  • Select Personal settings.
  • On the left, click Notifications.
  • Toggle the checkbox for email alerts in the Notification triggers table (for the ‘administration’ stream).
Mastering new knowledge succeeds most efficiently if you interact with others. As hyperfinecourse is mainly an online course, special emphasis is put on this interaction and communication. Forums are one of the ways to establish useful interactions (forms, reports, and the feedback webinars are other ways). At many places in the course, you will find dedicated discussion fora. If a page has a forum, the topic of the forum is usually the topic of the page. Some forums are meant to submit your answer to a specific question. And at the end of each chapter, there is a chapter forum to discuss topics related to that chapter. Fora are useful for you, because they trigger you to formulate your thoughts in clear and concise language. Another way in which they are useful is that they offer you a source of help: your fellow students can answer your questions via the fora. Writing answers to questions raised by your fellow students is a very good way of learning too. Moreover, the fora offer the instructors some insight in the way how you are thinking. That is great information to create feedback webinars that address your actual problems. Some of the fora are ‘post first’ : you get access to the contributions on the forum only once you have submitted a contribution yourself. These are typically fora where you are asked to answer a specific question. The ‘post first’ setup ensures that everybody can answer the question without being biased by the answers that have beens submitted before. As soon as you have submitted your answer to the forum, you can read the answers of others and compare their arguments with yours. This immediate feedback will often allow you to find out at once whether you answered correctly and completely or not. In order to train yourself with the forum software used in this course, you find hereunder two test fora: a normal one and a ‘post first’ one. Some instructions about their use are given. Feel free to experiment with these — the content of these forums will not be read. 1. normal forum Take the first forum underneath. Note that the forum is in a frame with its own scrollbar: you can scroll to the forum and click on hyperlinks within that frame, without changing your position on the course site.
  • you see the available posts in this forum. Scroll through them, and click one to read. Use the back button of your browser or the breadcrumbs …> Forums > blablabla… to go back to the overview.
  • in the overview window, scroll until you see ‘create new topic in…’
  • click in the ‘topic title’ field and write something there (this will become the title of your contribution to the forum)
  • write random text in the body of the contribution. There are buttons for bold/italic text, hyperlinks, lists, …
  • (‘topic tags’ are probably not useful here, leave it blank)
  • if you want to receive an email when somebody replies to your post, then check the ‘notify me…’ box. Be informed that this can generate a lot of mails for many years, if you do this (too) often. You can always uncheck this later.
  • click the submit button to … submit your post, yes.
  • you see a new screen with your submitted post, and with fields underneath to reply to your own post (you will usually not want to reply to yourself, though).
  • scroll to to the top, and search the line …> Forums > blablabla (train use of forum). The last part of the string is the forum to which you have submitted this post. Click on it, and you end up in the overview of all post on this forum.
  • you can now write another post to the same forum, or you can click on any of the avalailble posts to read it. If you want to reply to one of them, you find the reply fields under the post.
2. ‘post first’ forum Take the second forum underneath. A ‘post first’ forum is identical to a regular forum, except that you cannot read the content of the forum before you have submitted at least one post to the forum. A warning bar on top informs you about this. After having submitted your first post, it behaves exactly as a regular forum.

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At this page, a recording will be posted of the introductory classroom session that takes place on Wednesday February 15, 2023 (7h30 am UTC or 8h30 am local time). It summarizes part of the practical info, yet has no scientific content. For online students who take this as a selfpaced course, there is no pressing need to watch this webinar. Yet, you can do so if you feel like.