The discussion of the paper takes place Monday, May 31. Some questions were sent to me Friday, May 28. The questions and my reply are given here. I will try to summarize the discussion here.

When you click the links to questioners, an e-mail window shall appear if you use a late version of the browser. Comments and questions are in bold and response from the auther in regular fonts.

Professor Donald Rosenthal, ROSEN@CLVM.CLARKSON.EDU; Department of Chemistry, Clarkson University, Potsdam NY 13699-5810

In your paper you state that students taking Chemistry 120 and 123 have the option of taking:
  1. 5 classroom 15 minute quizzes or
  2. 9 to 10 CACT on-line quizzes where each quiz has 5 to 10 questions
You indicate that 2/3 of the students select Option B.

  1. Why do 2/3 of the students select option B?

    Data regarding why have not been collected. More students select option B because it is more convenient, and flexible. Often, students sent me e-mails in late night hours and on weekends. In the e-mail, some students indicated that they wrote the quizzes in Toronto and Ottawa. These cities are 100 and 600 km from Waterloo.

  2. Why do some students prefer option A?

    Option A has a teaching assistant (TA) in the class room. TAs provide provide an informal, less intimedating, and friendly help. Some students prefer to deal with a person than technology, and the are uncomfortable with computers.

  3. Is there any correlation between the option the students select and their performance in the course?

    At this point, no data is collected regarding difference in performance. We have not yet done a survey of students' opinion. We are planning a survey at a later date.

  4. Do students selecting option A have access to the on-line materials?

    The on-line materials are available for anybody over the Internet, and they are available to any students. A few students have select to write classroom quizzes and quizzes over the Internet. The higher average quiz mark is used for them.

  5. Since so many students select option B does this mean you need fewer teaching assistants?

    By providing the computerized quizzes, we are able to reduce the number of teaching assistants to half.

Janet Rogers, rogers@edinboro.edu; Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Chieh:
Students taking the online quizzes 1) can work in groups, 2) can take an unlimited (in theory) time, and 3) can take the quizzes while looking at their texts or notes.

  1. Have there been complaints from the students taking the timed quizzes about this?

    I am not aware of any complaints. No student has ever communicated to me of their displeasure of other students writing computerized quizzes. Students have written to me when they saw unacceptable behaviour in the past, but always from students who also write computerized quizzes.

  2. Do the students taking the in-class, 15 minute quizzes have access to their text or notes during the quizzes?

    Students writing the 15-minute written quizzes in classroom cannot access to their notes or textbook. These are close-book quizzes.

  3. Are the quiz averages for both the students taking the in-class and the students taking the online quizzes about the same, or are the scores for the students taking the online quizzes higher?

    The quiz averages are about the same, 8 out of 10.

  4. How do the exam performances for the two types of students compare?

    At this point, no data is collected regarding difference in performance. We have not yet done a survey of students' opinion. We are planning a survey at a later date.

Bert Ramsay, Bert@chemicalc.com; Chemical Concepts Corporation

Dr. Chieh:
Reference to "Experiments in Online Chemistry" in a recent issue of Chemical & Engineering News (May 24, 1999, pp. 34 -37):

I have just read the article: "Experiments in Online Chemistry" in a recent issue of Chemical & Engineering News (May 24, 1999, pp. 34 -37). By including view points of Drs. Wight, Paline, Craig, Grissom, and Vining, Rebecca Rawis has put forward a balanced view about online chemistry teaching.

Too often, we try to make one size to fit all. People with this expectation are going to be disappointed. There are certain things suitable for online approach, and there are things that can never be done via online.

Comparing examination marks of two groups of students taking the same course is not necessarily a fair adjudication of methods of delivery either. There is already a difference in the groups of students before they sign up. The motivation, expectation, age, and life experience for the two groups are very different. Even in a normal classroom teaching, an older or younger student usually have a rather different attitude about the teaching.

Do you agree with:

  1. Some of the teachers say it is just too much work to handle a reasonable number of students?

    I have yet to read the article in C & Eng News to fully understand the nature of the question. The amount of work is related to the number of students, if the teacher interact with the students regularly.

    After having read the article, I add the following comment:
    Since I have not offered freshman chemistry as online courses, I do not know the extend of interaction with online students. I did spend at least more than an hour per day answering students e-mails for 1000 students in these courses, mostly regarding quizzes. Only a few students asked chemistry questions. I will modify the quiz policy to minimize this type of burden, because it's not really benefiting students to spend time on administrative matters.

  2. Really only is effective with the top students - but who really seem to prefer the more traditional course structure?

    The top students do well whatever approach we take. Certainly, inter-personal relationship between the students and the teacher is part of the education. Relationship leading to effective learning can be developed via on-line courses.

    After having read the article, I add the following comment:
    The article quotes Dr. Grissom: "a student who is not motivated to keep pace in an upper-division course like mine will just be blown away." It continues with "He (Dr. Grissom) always advises students who have a choice to take his course in the class-room." I think all teachers know that a classroom is a community, and there is a certain value and motivation that comes from the community (or culture). Online teaching is certainly different from classroom teaching. The community spirit and value are the attractions for students to come back to the next lecture. This applies to highly motivated as well as the less motivated students.

DISCUSSION by George Long,
Department of Chemistry, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705-0001

I'm not sure that Grissom's statements can carry that much weight, given the small amount of on-line course work seen in chemistry. I think that faculty are limited in how they view "a class". the on-line environment is so different that it may not reasonable to try and create an online environment that mimics a classroom environment. Perhaps we have to think "out of the box" more when designing this type of course, even to the point of rethinking what a "course" really is. Unfortunatly, there are limitations that are artifacts of the traditional classroom environment (For example, the requirement that the students all stay in sync with one another. does it really matter whether they learn material in two months or 6 months). Our students are also programmed to work in this environment. It is no wonder they often feel more comfortable in a classroom. It will take some experience with on-line learning for a student before they can be highly effective.

Also, location is not necessary for the feeling of community. We have a community here, and I often anxiously wait for the next days' messages from confchem. Reproducing this for a student is a different story though, and goes back to the question of amount of work.

Dr. Robert J. Lancashire, Sub-Dean, Technology Management and Development, Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies, Kingston 7, Mona Campus, JAMAICA.

Dear Prof Chieh,
After reading your paper for Confchem I then tried out the demo questions set up for the Conference and looked at a few other pages on the site.

A couple of points..

I was surprised to see our Jamaican Doctor bird logo being used on your site!

The Coordination Chem page dealing with Nomenclature is using the 1957 IUPAC rules not the later 1971 where ALL ligands are named alphabetically rather than anionic first. Clearly this changed before any of your students were born!

Thanks for telling me about the nomenclature case. I will redo these pages. The pages were made up during a time I used an older textbook.

The test itself had numerous typographical errors and was very clunky to run having to hit many buttons to complete. This must cause a lot of problems and frustration for students.

There is much to do for this Internet Site for Freshman Chemistry yet. This is why I am busy. Every time I proof read a page, I always rewrite it. In so doing, new errors are introduced. When I write or rewrite, chemical presentation and web-page design issues requires my attention. Thus, I always feel helpless in this work.

I am looking for an EASY way to establish a method of delivering quizzes that I can get input from staff who are comfortable using WORD but not much else. Having a PERL or JAVA program behind the scenes is one approach that sounded appealing since it would not require going to expensive commercial packages like LOTUS Notes etc.

Clearly your arrangement at Waterloo works well for you but I wonder how well it would migrate to Jamaica.

In Waterloo, the Science Faculty has about 200 workstations for undergraduate students to use. Adequate computing is available in other faculties. Student villages are equipped with computers. These are available all the time. Some students have their personal computers too. Netscape 3 or higher and MS Explorer work well for the computerized quizzes. For something like this to work, you need hardware, software, and a person to start the business. Then the culture will catch on.

Walt Volland, Department of Chemistry, Bellevue Community College

I am very interested in your work because I am teaching a completely online introductory chemistry class.


I agree the online quizzes offer possiblities that are nonexistent with paper and pencil quizzes.


  1. Has attendance at lectures changed since the online materials became available?

    Attendance at lectures is lower since we have made all the materials available on the Internet. Students want to take notes during the lectures, and note taking helps them learn. I use another set of lecture notes, and those notes need revision now.

  2. Is there any evidence that indicates how students divide their study time between the text and the online materials?

    When I marked the final examination papers, I noticed that most students answered the questions following the style of the textbook. Thus, I think the textbook is followed by the majority of students. However, any Freshman Chemistry textbook costs about $100 CDN ($75 US), and I do not know if there is any student using the on-line material only.

  3. Is there any evidense that students are using the online materials as a substitute for the text?

    Since we suggested some weekly assignments from questions in the textbook, I think students feel having the textbook mandatory. I think the on-line material will be able to take the place of a textbook. One student who read both the textbook and the on-line material carefully had frequent contacted me last year. He pointed out the errors of the on-line material to me for correction. He is a mature student in his thirties.

  4. How do the "exams" relate to the online and in class quizzes ? Are the exam questions "neutral" ? Do questions on the exams have a style that favors either the online quiz or the in class quiz?

    The Exams are neutral. The Exams are set by as many as 5 instructors. For Chem120, another instructor got the style from my on-line material for his suggested questions. Others make up questions their way. I do use some questions from the on-line materials, and I informed the teaching team. No one objected.

Richard O. Pendarvist,

|  Richard Pendarvis, Ph.D.              3001 W. College Road             |
|  Associate Professor of Chemistry      Ocala, FL 32608                  |
|  Central Florida Community College     EMAIL: afn02809@afn.org          |

In teaching Gen. Chem. over the internet using the Archipelago system, I have found that the biggest problem is getting students to stay on schedule. The management software shows this quite clearly but I have not found anything that really works to correct the problem.

Do you have trouble keeping the students motivated enough to stay on schedule?

Do they take their online quizes on time?

I have tried "locking them out" as a motivation. It works but causes more attrition.

What are your experiences with this?

/* Richard */

Thank you Richard
for the question.

I too find it very difficult to motivate students and I am often frustrated by it. Sometimes I cannot understand why some students would pay tuition to be in the class, but is not motivated to learn anything. Because of the quiz on the Internet, some parents e-mailed me regarding the students. I asked students a show of hands to see who are there because their parents want them to be there. More than 60% of the students raised their hands.

From what they have put on their final exam paper, I guess the ill-prepared students are completely lost. They do not understand our language of instruction, and some simply give up trying. They do not understand the questions either. I had no choice but to fail them.

Students do want marks, however litter the weight is towards the final grade. Quizzes keep them to follow a schedule, although some rush to it at the last minute. The quizzes are available during the stated time, and I have been firm in keeping this policy. If I give an inch, some students want me to give a foot. Yielding to students will make me more popular, but I do not think that is good for the students. In industry, deadlines must be taken seriously.

Walt Volland, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry, Bellevue Community College, Bellevue, Washington 98007

The question of "keeping up" was brought up by ROP.

My experience with my online classes indicates it is easier to keep my students motivated if there is a consistent work pattern for every week.

The first online class I taught was set up with a series of 3 quizzes, a midterm followed by another series of quizzes and the final. There were weekly experiments and other weekly assignments. The course moved smoothly until the midterm. The work habits that grew up during the first four weeks were undermined when the midterm came along. It was very hard to resume the work pace that existed before the midterm.

I now use a continuous series of weekly assignments. There is no midterm. It was disruptive. Now I have some assignment due almost every other day. I decided it important to keep is a regular consitent work level.

Every week there is a clearest point/muddiest point, an experiment and a quiz. These are due on Wednesday, Saturday, and Monday respectively. The level of participation is consistent. I have had very few dropouts after the first two weeks of "sorting out" occurred.

I hope this helps.

Additional Comment

Walt Volland, Department of Chemistry Bellevue Community College, Bellevue, Washington 98007, 425-641-2467

Hello everyone,

The online class offers many opportunities for "community" and cooperation among students.

In the Washington Online classes students I form the class into study groups. I assign every student to a group. I require the groups to work on their "muddiest point" and "clearest point" together. They send in their MP/CP during the week based on these discussions. This helps minimize the isolation that can develop in the online class.

My experience with these groups is very positive. The less prepared students benefit from interacting with the more prepared ones. There is peer pressure for enveryone to contribute.

The "best students" are not the only ones who benefit from the online atmosphere.

Walt :-)