E-focused Organic Chemistry Class

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!

References:

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

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3 Responses to E-focused Organic Chemistry Class

  1. marc bratt says:

    Rahim, your experience with e-Learning and organic chemistry is intriguing. My field of English has no laboratory component; English is reading, thinking, and writing about what you either read or are thinking about. Chemistry, biology, and physics involve theory and lab work to see how theory works. The great scientific discoveries seem to occur in laboratories, not in classrooms.

    How virtual labs compare with real labs?

    With e-learning, science is more visual. Textbook illustrations are one-dimensional; but, as you pointed out, computer programmes and 3D images make learning easier and more fun. With the new 3D printer, the possibilities are amazing for chemistry, biology, and physics classes.

    I do agree that blended learning is the right approach for science classes. If all the content is online, them the pendulum swings too far into memorizing information.
    A teacher or professor is needed for assessment, answer questions, and provide feedback to students for labortaory experiements and lab write-ups.

    The technology can empower a student to use the tools to make abstract concepts and theories visible and more meanigful through multimedia and computer images. Moreover, advances in neuroscience and in healthcare can be rapidly disseminated through the internet. Books take years to publish and the rapid advances in science can be accessed more quickly than waiting for the textbook.

    E-Learning is also cheaper; with science textbooks costing well over $100, the most current information is available through the internet, websites, and university libraries.

  2. rahimpira says:

    Thanks for your detailed feedback, Marc!

  3. Doug MacLachlan says:

    Rahim, when I took Organic Chemistry 301/303 it was back in the stone ages before the Internet existed. I took it in the summer, an intense experience. Every night I would close my eyes and Benzene rings would float in from of my eyes. I lugged my very heavy and very expensive textbook, Morrison and Boyd, up to U of C every day. I never could have imagined that all that information would one day be available “online” and that those Benzene rings could be explored and manipulated with sophisticated software. Thanks for taking me back in time and helping me to envision how different it might have been if e-Focused learning were an option when I was a student!

    Doug

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