New chemistry online labs show teaching, learning success

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On September 1, 2020

Dr. Klaus Woelk, associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Philip Whitefield, Chancellor’s Professor and professor emeritus of chemistry, embraced the task of putting their labs online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have written a paper outlining best practices for other educators.

The paper describes their approach for providing the most effective online learning lab experience for undergraduate students.

S&T students in the chat forum for the online course taught with the approach, CHEM 1319 General Chemistry Lab, have commented, “That was literally the best Zoom meeting ever” and “Jeff (Dr. Jeffrey Winiarz, associate professor of chemistry, who teaches the lecture portion) is Gru, Klaus (Woelk) is Dr. Nefario, the TAs (teaching assistants) are the Gorls, and we are the minions … magic.”

Although Woelk and Whitefield had access to pre-recorded lab experiments for their method, they decided to create real-time, video-mediated demonstrations where students could participate. Each experiment is guided by a course instructor, a teaching assistant and a camera person. This set-up gives students the opportunity to experience chemical phenomena in real time, participate in breakout discussion groups, and use a chat room to ask the instructor questions and to communicate with their classmates.

Because the experiments are live, they are unedited. Whitefield says edited experiment videos can make something complicated look deceptively simple, and he and Woelk wanted to avoid that.

View a Zoom-recorded experiment from the CHEM 1319 General Chemistry Lab that shows how to determine the acidity of vinegar.

The paper, titled “As Close as It Might Get to the Real Lab Experience – Livestreamed Laboratory Activities,” is available online and is scheduled to be published in a special September edition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Journal of Chemical Education.

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On September 1, 2020. Posted in Accomplishments