. By Chung Chieh (e-mail), Department of Chemistry, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L3G1

8. CACT Content

The content of the INTERNET SITE FOR FRESHMAN CHEMISTRY is based on a Departmental decision made more than 15 years ago, but the teaching team chooses topics to emphasize and it adopts a suitable textbook. In 15 years, we have switched textbook a few times, but the content of CACT is prepared independent of the textbook. Actually, we present the topics in the order given in the INTERNET SITE FOR FRESHMAN CHEMISTRY. Students, who have studied from this Internet site and mastered all the concepts therein, will do well in all examinations. The Distance and Continuing Education branch of the University of Waterloo has looked at this site, and the manager is very interested in having this site offered as distance education courses.

Due to the large amount of information on the Internet, most Internet documents are short. Each page on the INTERNET SITE FOR FRESHMAN CHEMISTRY deals with one concept or theory so that it is short. In this approach, chemistry is broken down into many modules; each teaches a number of skills. Bits and bytes of chemical concepts are organized by the Menu to present a body of chemical common sense with some general themes.

Freshman chemistry is taught in two term courses: Chem120 followed by Chem123 for students in other than chemistry programs. For students in chemistry and biochemistry programs, the two parallel courses are Chem121 and Chem125. Their themes are:

Some high school graduates have already mastered some of the topics in Freshman Chemistry. Active learners can selectively study the pages of INTERNET SITE FOR FRESHMAN CHEMISTRY. They may also use the questions to test their skills before reading the theory. There are some students, who passively follow the menu and the text, but cannot apply the theory or concept covered in these pages to solve slightly different problems.

Because the low achievers attract most of our attention, they tend to affect our perception of freshman chemistry students more than the high achievers. We often debate on reducing the number of topics and changing topics in freshman chemistry to deal with this group. We feel that we need more time to help them understand the concepts.

On the other hand, we have had many high achievers passing through these courses. They have no problem with the content. The Departmental decision to have separate courses for students in chemistry related programs and students in other programs was to teach according to their ability, but students in both streams have varying degrees of ability.

Students who have mastered concepts and skills expected of Freshman Chemistry in their high school years are given an opportunity to write an Early Examination to earn the credit. Every year, a few students get over 70% in the Early Examinations, and are given the opportunity to select another course for the term. More often, students accept only marks over 85%. If they get less than 80%, they write quizzes and examinations to get higher marks. Many of these students are competing for entrance to a professional school such as medical, dentistry, and optometry.