Chem21Labs Overview

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect is the foundation of the Chem21Labs approach. The Practice of Chemistry (or anything else) must include activities that are assigned, monitored and evaluated for improvement (and mastery) to occur. Bloom's Taxonomy describes 6 areas of cognitive thought through which a learner must progress to achieve fluency in an area of learning.

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

Chem21Labs has developed online, interactive, computer-graded activities that engage the learner at these levels of cognitive thought.

  1. Knowledge, Comprehension and Application of chemical facts and processes are achieved using Timed / Repetitive Quizzes (TRQs). TRQs take the "facts of chemistry" from the text book and present them to the student in an active-learning assignment that is "low stakes" and "high reward." You have probably discovered that most students will complete an assignment by the due date, but very few students will complete a suggestion by the due date. How many times have you said . . . . .

    I suggest you memorize this list of cation / anions by the next class period as we will use this information to write formulas for ionic compounds.
    I suggest you "become familiar" with these organic reactions as we will discuss their mechanisms at the next lecture.

    Typically if you want your suggestions to be followed, you convert them into assessments . . . . "there will be a quiz over this list of cations and anions at the beginning of the next class period."
    What happens then? Many students cram the night before or the morning of the quiz . . . some blow it off because it does not significantly affect the overall course grade . . . a few learn the information by applying a spaced-retrieval learning approach . . . the quiz has to be graded, recorded and returned. TRQs replace inadequate study habits with the proven spaced-retrieval approach, automatically grades and records the student's work, and is completed by more than 90% of students. Here's why . . . .

    • Low Stakes - every student can complete the assignment if they are willing to work . . . . repeating the quiz until they have answered a certain number of questions correctly.
    • High Reward - the student earns course credit for studying.

    The theory, application and research results are found by clicking Timed / Repetitive Quizzes (TRQs).

  2. Application, Analysis and Synthesis levels of cognitive thought are actively engaged with the following:
    • Tutorials - low-stakes, interactive animations where full credit is awarded when the student successfully reaches the end of the animation . . . . no points are deducted for starting over.
    • Learning Pathways - interactive animations that model accepted approaches to solve complex problems.
      • General Chemistry: several Dimensional Analysis Pathways, a Phase Diagram / Heating Curve Pathway, an Interconverting Concentrations Pathway and a Determining Solution pH Pathway.
      • Organic Chemistry: a Stereochemistry Pathway and many Synthesis Pathways.
    • Homework - problems presented in various formats (multiple-choice, multiple-select, fill-in-the-blank, ordering, numeric answers, balancing equations (chemical and nuclear), etc). Organic chemistry homework problems use the free drawing program ChemSketch to draw / submit answers.
    • Lab Reports - online submission of lab data, calculations, balanced equations and graphed results are graded in real-time by the computer the moment they are entered by the student. Introducing immediate feedback into any process increases learning . . . . the more immediate the feedback, the greater the effect.

The decision to incorporate computer-based excercises that begin at the lowest levels of cognitive thought must be accompanied by a changed educational paradigm where the instructor gives herself permission to assign an online workload that requires the student to engage in active learning activities for part of the "expected" hours of study. If 10 hours per week is "expected" for proficiency in an Organic Chemistry course, excercises should be assigned that require 5 - 8 hours of active engagement leaving time for reading the chapter.

The assignments listed above have been used at the university level for twelve years and the results are outstanding. At Lee University, the ACS Organic Chemistry Exam is given each year as the Final Exam. The average class percentile on this exam over those ten years was 59.4 percentile. This result becomes more remarkable when coupled with the fact that ONLY 3 STUDENTS have dropped the second semester course during those twelve years . . . 386 / 389 students who started the class in January sat for the ACS Exam in April.