Since MELO’s inception, the Chemistry Department has been discovering and wrapping online learning objects to supplement the existing undergraduate introductory chemistry courses at the University of Michigan. The department has amassed a collection of over one hundred learning objects that are adaptable to the existing general chemistry curriculum. Due to the success of the integration of the learning objects into general chemistry coursework, graduate students Renata Everett and Grace Winschel will work under the guidance of Professor Ginger Shultz to garner similarly successful learning objects for the CH216 undergraduate organic chemistry laboratory course at the University of Michigan.
CH216 introduces undergraduates to synthesis and the characterization of organic compounds, primarily focusing on reactions involving carbonyl functional groups. Though students have learned basic techniques such as thin-layer chromatography in their previous laboratory coursework (CH211), they face many new technical and academic challenges in the 216 course. Integration of learning objects into the curriculum will be essential in alleviating some of the stress involved in experiencing organic synthesis for the first time.
In their first year of involvement in the MELO project, Renata and Grace would like to target learning objects centered around nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Though students are introduced to 1H-NMR in their introductory CH210 lecture course, they are not expected to understand splitting patters or the difference between homotopic, enantiotopic and diasteriotopic protons until CH216. Due to restricted lecture times, many students require much out-of-the-classroom practice to understand and interpret the nuances present in NMR spectra.
Other areas to be targeted include writing laboratory reports, using a laboratory notebook responsibly and utilizing web-based scientific databases like SciFinder and Reaxys. With ten lab reports due during the course, it is essential that students learn how to compose a well-written and well-reasoned lab report within the first few weeks of the course. A learning object dedicated to breaking down the writing process would certainly aide many students at the start of the term. Learning objects centered around basic laboratory techniques such as distillation or recrystallization should also be well-received by students taking the course.
Though much work is to be done to identify and wrap appropriate learning objects for 216, the MELO3D grant specifically asks for evaluations of the impact of learning objects on student learning. In the coming academic years, organic chemistry students may be given access to approved CH216 learning objects and then surveyed at the end of the term to determine each learning object’s effectiveness in supplementing the coursework.