General Organic Chemistry course which I took at the university reminds me of blended learning classroom where I had face-to-face lectures in a science theatre and Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) sessions. A chemical bonding in reality is a three dimensional (3D) bonding and any chemical reaction involving hydrocarbons takes place in 3D style. Hence, the organic structures and reactions were introduced in the lectures in order to learn major scientific theories while the CAL sessions played an important role by showing those structures and reactions on a computer in a 3D scale, just like viewing them in reality.
CAL sessions were accessed from any computer with internet connection; so it provided a flexible learning environment that “enable[d] unlimited connectivity for teachers and students from any part of the world” (M. Hastie et al., 2010). Some of the quizzes in the sessions were required to be completed by certain deadline; however, they were completed outside class at any time.
Viewing organic compounds in 3D scale on a computer also helped in understanding the mechanism of a particular chemical reaction (involving those compounds) covered in the lecture. There was a connection between in-class lectures and CAL sessions because a particular session covered the topics discussed in the lectures for that week. The session also had its own knowledge testing quiz at the end. Based on the performance in the quiz, every learner was given a computer generated feedback which was beneficial in improving areas of concerns throughout the course.
One aspect which should be adopted in these sessions is monitoring of the system where instructors would “have a clear picture of what is happening; they [would]… know who is participating and how” (D.Persico et al., 2010). This kind of approach would give a clear idea about each student’s behavior online: did the student complete the lesson successfully before taking the quiz or did the student just log into the system in order to complete the quiz – which was due in few hours – after getting the answers from other students who completed their online quiz. These questions are fair questions to be determined if the course grade is dependant on the successful completion of online quizzes in CAL sessions.
Based on my experience with CAL sessions, the overall course can be designed online without the need of face-to-face lectures except for the laboratory part of the course where hands-on experience and skills in dealing with organic compounds are recommended. Some online universities – like Athabasca University – have adopted this kind of approach in their Organic Chemistry course. However, blended learning approach is easier than distance learning approach because in distance learning, one has to be more disciplined in order to meet all deadlines, yet there is a flexibility to engage in learning at anytime and from anywhere!
Hastie, M., I.-Chun, H., & Nian-Shing, C. (2010). A blended synchronous learning model for educational international collaboration. Innovations In Education & Teaching International, 47(1), 9-24. doi:10.1080/14703290903525812
Persico, D., Pozzi, F., & Sarti, L. (2010). Monitoring collaborative activities in computer supported collaborative learning. Distance Education, 31(1), 5-22. doi:10.1080/01587911003724603