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Physics. Can I just sit in on classes?

  1. Jul 20, 2009 #1
    Hi my name is David. I live in Canada. I wanted to know if anybody knew the policies/regulations/opportunities here in Canada regarding individuals sitting in on college/university classes. I am on a fixed income and can not afford to pay for school and I suffer from severe fatigue so full course loads and the like do not suit my situation. I've done a little calculus on my own and have found my interests really lie in physics (for example I was in bed for about 2 hours wondering if a photon experienced time or space). I want to go to university to learn for the shear learning as I doubt I will ever be an asset as an employee. I bring up sitting in classes but I am open to other opportunities.

    P.S. Would I ask the question about the photon in the relativity forum or the quantum forum?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2009 #2

    Choppy

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    Sitting in on a class without being graded is called auditing. You can do this on an official (ie. it will be documented on a transcript) or unofficial (for your own knowledge only) basis. If you're interested in an unofficial audit (which sounds like the case) you really only have to ask the professor at the beginning of the semmester. Whether or not this is allowed is usually based on the number of spaces filled in the class by full students. Also, some instructor discretion is allowed.
     
  4. Jul 20, 2009 #3
    Most first year science classes that I've been in had over 1000 people in them, so there would be no way to tell if you really are registered. For smaller classes I would ask the professor - try to find them before/after class to tell them your situation.
     
  5. Jul 20, 2009 #4
    As has been mentioned officially auditing requires you to pay some small fraction of the full cost of the course. Unofficialy auditing is never actually "supported" by the uni but if the prof doesn't give a damn it's their choice. As for photon's and such I'd say post it in general if you're not sure of the difference.
     
  6. Jul 20, 2009 #5
    Thanks. I think I already know the answer to my other question.
     
  7. Jul 21, 2009 #6

    Andy Resnick

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    My personal policy is that anyone who asks to sit in the back and observe my class is welcome to do so, under the condition that they do not disturb the students who are paying for/taking the class for credit.
     
  8. Jul 21, 2009 #7
    I hope the instructors in my geographic location are as open as you are.

    Does anybody know of any alternatives? For example are there physics clubs, government programs, etc? Of course there are online resources, however there is little if no mentoring online, excluding this forum :approve:.
     
  9. Jul 21, 2009 #8

    mgb_phys

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    UBC charge $150/credit to audit undergrad classes and require a typical Canadian institution level of forms and signatures - it also looks like this only applies to existing students.

    Sitting in on an ugrad physics class is likely to be useful/interesting than you might think. The lectures are going to be less about the hows an whys of the great ideas and more about applying particular mathematical techniques, that they assume you know, to particular problems.
     
  10. Jul 21, 2009 #9

    thrill3rnit3

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    Can a high school kid just come in, sit in the back of the class and listen to the lectures? :approve:
     
  11. Jul 21, 2009 #10
    Depends on the course. If it's a first year course then sure. There are hundreds of students in a big auditorium. No one will notice. In big 1st year science classes they don't take attendance or anything (unless the class has a long waiting list in which case they sometimes institute a policy of kicking people out of the course who don't show up to the first couple lectures, in which case they take attendance) However, if you wanted to sit in on a niche 4th year course with only 6 people then the fact that you're not enrolled might be a little obvious.
     
  12. Jul 21, 2009 #11

    mgb_phys

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    From a UK perspective, places used to be a lot freerer and easier about this - especially since home students didn't pay any fees.
    Some depts were a little more security conscious (generally the ones that used animals or might be thought to by animal rights campaigners) but all seminars and visiting lectures were officialy open.

    Also most UK universities work on the 'member of the university' so once you are admitted you can attend anything you like, some older places you are a member for life and so get to use the library when working (which is handy).
    You can generally get a library readers card if you just look vaguely studious and fill in some forms.

    Things have clamped down a lot 'for security reasons' which means some power mad little bureaucrat invented a way to make everything harder for everyone.
    Personally I would be delighted if high school kids sat in on a lecture - but it's probably banned now because everybody working there would have to have criminal record checks to work with children.
    So most lecturers would probably manage to not notice you were there.
     
  13. Jul 21, 2009 #12

    thrill3rnit3

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    well I've been reading previous posts about this thing called auditing, maybe I can just talk to the professor to let me sit in and listen?? Do they usually care (I wouldn't think so)?
     
  14. Jul 21, 2009 #13
    Well auditing actually cost money and goes on your transcript. Sometimes when you audit you actually have to do an assignment or two (though not nearly as many as those actually in the course). The point of auditing is for someone with a full course load to get something on their transcript basically saying they have some basic familiarity with the content of course X. It ultimately depends on the prof. I TA and I don't think i'd care if someone wanted to sit in on one of my tutorial sections. I mean, as long as they weren't like creepy looking or something.
     
  15. Jul 21, 2009 #14

    mgb_phys

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    As the answers above show - officaly it's probably not allowed without official permission (and a fee). If you are a student at the university it's probably easier.

    They might have to officially (or legally) care. So it might be better for them to officialy not notice you in the back of large class.

    I would aim for the 'it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission' route. The worst that is going to happen is that you are going to be asked to leave.
     
  16. Jul 21, 2009 #15
    out of curiosity what do you consider a disturbance? a question?
     
  17. Jul 21, 2009 #16
    Well I wouldn't push your luck but prof's really don't know/care who the 100 or so students in their first year classes are.
     
  18. Jul 21, 2009 #17
    all of MIT's courses are available to watch for FREE on the net. go to google and type in MITopencourseware
     
  19. Jul 21, 2009 #18

    thrill3rnit3

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    ...if only they have videos of all their classes :tongue:
     
  20. Jul 21, 2009 #19
    As an alternative (or in addition to sitting in on classes), you might consider checking out any of the thousands of websites now available providing college-level lectures on a variety of subjects.

    It is called "Open Course", and it is an approach to e-learning that many colleges and universities are starting to use. You will not get credit, you will not get a grade, you will not have an official transcript or record, but you don't pay anything, either. You can view the video lectures for whole classes, do homework problems, take tests/quizzes, and check answers, all using the materials made available free-of-charge on line, most of which are taken straight from the university/college courses.

    Some of the Best:
    http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/courses/av/index.htm"
    http://oyc.yale.edu/" [Broken]
    http://oli.web.cmu.edu/openlearning/forstudents/freecourses"

    In addition, you can find tutorials and information online on just about any topic at just about any level - search for teacher resources, as these are generally developed to allow teachers to present materials at different levels for all learning styles.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  21. Jul 21, 2009 #20
    Ya. I perused those MIT phys courses and that guy (the guy who teaches all the courses that actually have video lectures) is far more engaging and competent then pretty much any prof I've ever had. If they video taped the more advanced lectures (especially their grad lectures) I would be in seventh heaven... Ok... That sounded kinda sad.
     
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