Dr. Ginger Shultz and her MELO team (Grace and Renata) created a very comprehensive and ambitious plan for developing, integrating, and assessing Learning Objects into their Organic Chemistry course. Like the Spanish department, Dr. Shultz uses content that has been co-created in the University of Michigan Chemistry department and her classes often have trouble with sticky issues. Many times, they start her courses lacking basic math or science skills that would otherwise enable them to engage in the classroom at the appropriate level.
With the help of her teaching team, Dr. Shultz developed a website featuring open access Learning Objects from other universities, a blog, and incorporated the use of VoiceThread into their classroom assignments. While they are using technology and platforms on the open web, they have integrated this into U-M’s Learning Management System, CTools, where they are able to track student use. By using both LMS and open platforms, they can contribute these resources to learners outside of U-M and measure the impact of these resources in their own classrooms. They provided students with basic resources to help them build the skills they needed to start succeeding in the classroom through access to outside institutional Learning Objects. They also used videos to teach students how to use ChemDraw, the documentation tool used in the class. These additional resources enabled the teaching team to give all students access to a variety of resources, tutorials, and support to lower the barrier to classroom success.
By inviting students to use VoiceThread to provide an explanation to a problem, the Organic Chemistry MELO team took a huge step toward reducing barriers to participation and active learning in their large introductory course. They offered this as an “opportunity” to make the videos, fostering an opportunity to engage in a more comfortable setting for students. Grace provided an example of how a “peer-expert” (a higher level student in the field) would explain the answer to a problem, giving students guidelines for their own answers. Through this use of technology, Grace is able to teach students how to use ChemDraw and to explain a problem simultaneously. Exemplary videos are then shown in class, encouraging competition to do well and encouraging students to speak up in class. Students have been innovating using this tool by creating skits, commenting on each others’ responses and supporting each other’s learning experiences outside of class.
Through the use of surveys given at intervals during the semester, Dr. Shultz and her teaching class have seen an increase in grades for the students who used the Learning Objects as compared with other sections of Organic Chemistry in which students were not given access to these resources.