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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:
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.
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.
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.
I agree the online quizzes offer possiblities that are nonexistent with paper and pencil quizzes.
FOUR SHORT QUESTIONS:
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.
| Richard Pendarvis, Ph.D. 3001 W. College Road | | Associate Professor of Chemistry Ocala, FL 32608 | | Central Florida Community College EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.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
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.
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.