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Groundbreaking new online introductory chemistry course

April 19, 2011

Chem W1A
New interactive course Chemistry W1A

With all the cutbacks in education in California, it’s getting harder for students at all levels to complete vital requirements. To address this need and to move Introductory Chemistry instruction into the 21st Century, we introduce here an exciting new online course, Chem W1A, that will enable students to learn introductory chemistry this summer in an energizing, interactive online format. This extraordinary introductory chemistry course is tailored to undergraduate students with challenging schedules and commutes, wherever they reside. Its quality far exceeds typical online courses, and its innovative format, developed with the support of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, encourages student engagement, critical thinking, and depth of learning.

Chem W1A:

Chem W1A is transferable for 3 units UC Berkeley credit. The laboratory portion, Chem 1AL, is available on campus. See for registration information.

The following is a detailed description of the course.

Description of Chem W1A
Chem W1A will be an instructor-led course that makes extensive use of web-based elements (outlined in detail below). The instructor will lead the course by assembling the web-based elements according to a course schedule and then use web-based tools to guide the students through the course.

In particular, the course will consist of a sequence of Lessons. A Lesson contains roughly the same content as a face-to-face lecture, with the added on-line aspect of reviewable and interactive elements. Prior to each Lesson, the instructor will hold an open on-line chat session where the Lesson is introduced and put into context for the course. Because it is live and regularly scheduled this chat session also serves the function of the few minutes before a face-to-face lecture, or the hallway conversation between students and instructor. The transcript of these chat sessions will be preserved so that asynchronous users may also benefit. In the pre-class chat, the instructor can also introduce current and topical items from the news and scientific literature. This will help to keep the course current and relevant.

Each Chem W1A Lesson will include the following four types of interactive video-based learning elements (or segments, see Figure 1):

I. Lecture segments emulate the traditional lecture, but with a high-quality HD video. Lecture segments are three to five minutes long and include high-quality graphics display and props (molecular models, etc.) to help explain more complex ideas. The presenter’s attention is focused on the viewer rather than on a classroom (as in a webcast, for example) for a more personal, engaging on-line experience. Graphics shown in the lecture are also provided to students as downloadable handouts or as separate graphic files for closer examination, note-taking and review.

II. Demonstration segments capture the educational and exciting chemical demonstrations that are extremely popular in the face-to-face version of Chem 1A. Demonstration segments are provided with a clear voice-over from the instructor and a front-row-seat point of view.

III. ChemQuiz segments are interactive ‘concept-tests’ where students respond on-line to a conceptual question related to the lecture. ChemQuiz segments make use of on-line screen clicks to make choices followed by an asynchronous discussion. In the discussion, students enter their rationale which is added to a thread for other students to read, and in turn, the student reads rationales from others. The discussions are ‘seeded’ with an argument/rationale for each possible answer, so that the discussion thread is always active, even for the first student to contribute to the discussion thread.

IV. Nuts and Bolts segments are on-line tutorials focusing on problem-solving in chemistry. Each Nuts and Bolts segment goes step-by-step through the methodology and thought processes involved in solving exercises typically found in end-of-chapter selections in chemistry textbooks or found on Chem 1A exams.

chemW1A images

A full Chem W1A Lesson contains, on average, four Lecture segments, four ChemQuiz segments, two Demonstration segments and two Nuts and Bolts segments. We estimate students will spend 45 to 55 minutes on a full Lesson.

In addition to the video-based Lessons, each preceded by the pre-class instructor-led introduction, Chem W1A will also make use of the following internet technologies:

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