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Now offered for the second summer in a row:

An interactive web-based introductory chemistry course from UC Berkeley

May 15, 2012

Register for Summer 2012!

To move Introductory Chemistry instruction into the 21st century, the College of Chemistry has introduced an exciting online course, Chem W1A, that enables non-chemistry majors to learn introductory chemistry during the summer in an energizing, interactive online format.

Now offered for the second summer in a row, this extraordinary introductory chemistry course is tailored to undergraduate students with challenging schedules and commutes, wherever they reside. In this way, it accommodates students who would otherwise not be able to take the face-to-face course or who may prefer this mode of learning. Taking the course over the summer also allows students to move along to their core degree courses more quickly. Developed with the support of Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Chem W1A adopts an innovative format with a quality that far exceeds typical online courses, encouraging student engagement, critical thinking, and depth of learning.

Chem W1A:

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Note that the laboratory portion, Chem 1AL, is available on the Berkeley campus. See for registration information.

The course was first offered in the summer of 2011 and is now being led and refined by instructor Zerubba Levi . Zerubba, an alumnus of the College of Chemistry, was honored with an Outstanding Teaching Award as a Head Graduate Student Instructor at Berkeley and has taught chemistry at Skyline Community College in San Bruno, California. Also responsible for teaching Chem 1A, the traditional course, over the summer, Zerubba will be studying the efficacy of the online course by performing a systematic comparison to the face-to-face course. His efforts will focus on further improving the quality of the online course while expanding accessibility to hundreds of students.

Description of Chem W1A

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

In particular, the course consists of a sequence of thirty-eight Lessons separated into thirteen distinct Modules. A Lesson contains roughly the same content as a face-to-face lecture, with the added online aspect of reviewable and interactive elements. Each Module consists of 2-4 Lessons grouped together according to a specific theme in the course. Prior to the start of each Module, the instructor will introduce the Lessons in a YouTube video and put the course material in the context of current events (both in 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 online 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 online to a conceptual question related to the lecture. ChemQuiz segments make use of online 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 online 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:

Chem W1A
Interactive web-based course Chemistry W1A

More Information

Visit for registration information.