Students enrolled in introductory chemistry courses are interested in a variety of fields, such as biology, physics, engineering and medicine. However, at this stage of their educations, they often do not understand the importance of chemistry within their fields of interest. In response to this problem, we developed application-based, online chemical tutorials to use in our General Chemistry laboratory curriculum, starting in 1998. Click here to see the project’s Web site. These online tutorials were developed to address the following goals:
To increase students’ interest in learning chemistry by increasing their awareness of chemistry’s importance, especially in their everyday lives
To improve students’ abilities to think microscopically, to integrate knowledge from a variety of sources, and to solve interdisciplinary problems through qualitative and quantitative reasoning
To reinforce fundamental chemical concepts
The Teaching Center and Chemistry: Regina Frey
Chemistry: Rachel E. Casiday, Michelle Gilbertson, Carolyn Herman, Dewey Holten, William Spees
Oglethorpe University: Roberta K. Deppe
Description of the Tutorials
Each tutorial accompanies and complements an experiment. The tutorials contain animations and interactive viewing of molecular models to help students develop better mental models for molecules and molecular behavior. Each tutorial tells its own story and can stand on its own; however, the tutorials also build on one another, so that students are reminded of pertinent concepts and examples from previous tutorials. The students must answer questions about each tutorial (concerning both the chemical concepts and the application). The tutorial questions are worth 20% of the grade for each experiment.
In fall 2000, we performed a statistical evaluation of the tutorials using a pre-test/post-test format with a control-group assessment. The samples used in the study were large. Both the control and Washington University students received statistically higher scores on the post-test than on the pre-test, and Washington University students improved more than the control students did. At the control school, males and females performed equally well on both the pre-test and the post-test. At Washington University, females scored lower on the pre-test than males did, but they scored the same as males on the post-test. Washington University students reported having more positive attitudes about chemistry than did the control students. Washington University students also rated their computer assignments more positively than did the control students. Males and females were equally positive on the attitudinal questions.
These results indicate that the curriculum that integrates interdisciplinary, application-based tutorials with the laboratory and lecture material has elevated the education of our students and increased their appreciation of chemistry in the world around them.
M.J. Donlin, R.F. Frey, C. Putnam, J.K. Proctor, and J.K. Bashkin, Journal of Chemical Education, 75, 437, 1998. “Analysis of Iron in Ferritin, the Iron-Storage Protein: A General Chemistry Experiment.” (Cover picture on journal)
R.E. Casiday, D. Holten, and R.F. Frey, Journal of Chemical Education, 78, 1210, 2001. “Blood-Chemistry Tutorials: Teaching Biological Applications of General-Chemistry Material.” (Cover picture on journal)
C. Herman, R.E. Casiday, R.K. Deppe, M. Gilbertson, W.M. Spees, D. Holten, and R.F. Frey, Journal of Chemical Education, 82, 1871, 2005 “Interdisciplinary, Application-Oriented Tutorials: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation.”
The development, modification, and assessment of these tutorials were supported by grants to Washington University from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, through the Undergraduate Biological Sciences Education program (Grants HHMI #71192-502004 and HHMI #71199-502008).