Web-Based Applications for Chemical Education: Experiences and Visions
An on-line conference, beginning May 5, 2006
Web-based applications have had, and will continue to have, a profound impact on chemical education. This online conference will bring together a variety of presentations representing recent work in this important field of chemical education.
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With computers, relatively inexpensive software, the Internet, and print on demand printing, it seems that anyone can now consider writing and self-publishing their own internet-based textbook. This paper addresses the issues related to this task. The following questions are presented, possible answers are suggested, and requests are made for answers from CONFCHEM participants. Is it possible for one person or a small group of people to create a quality chemistry text and supplemental materials without the support of the established academic publishing industry? Can chemical educators be convinced that a text that is not distributed by a known publishing house can be of high enough quality to consider adopting for their classes? If there is some resistance to new approaches to delivering information, what factors might counter-balance the concerns? What's the best way for self-published material to be reviewed? Are students ready to get more information from computer-based sources? What percentage of students would want a hard copy of an internet-based text? Would they be content with a black-and-white version, assuming that they have access to the color version on the Internet? How will authors be compensated for their work? What's the best way to advertise self-published material? See http://preparatorychemistry.com/Bishop_conference.htm.
Henry Rzepa (Imperial College
London) and Marion Cass (
The way educators typically use the Web to
support their teaching in 2006 is arguably a regression from many of the
ideals first anticipated in 1994. Time pressure, a reluctance to learn
"difficult HTML", and pressure from the publishing industry has
allowed the Web to retreat into "shrink-wrapped" black holes known
as Acrobat files. An ever greater reluctance (by both authors and publishers)
to appreciate the importance of deploying meta-data in a meaningful manner
means that most often, these Acrobat files represent the bones lying in an
information graveyard, stripped of any "reusability" and really fit
only for printing (e-books have yet to take off in any significant sense). In
our article (we hesitate to perpetuate the above by calling it a
"paper"!) we discuss two particular themes. Firstly, how a greater
emphasis on data capture and its re-usability, together with the use of
open-source software such as the remarkable Jmol, can result in a much more
meaningful and future-proofed way of presenting chemical knowledge to
students. We illustrate this via two resources, one designed to introduce
symmetry to chemistry students, the other a dynamical introduction to
pseudorotation in fluxional molecules. These can be viewed at http://www.ch.ic.ac.uk/local/symmetry/ and http://www.ch.ic.ac.uk/rzepa/bpr/..
Secondly, we address the issue of how to create holistic resources and to
overcome the reluctance of stressed and pressured academics by discussing two
recent phenomena, that of the "Wiki" and the "Podcast".
The Wikipedia is perhaps the best known illustration of how a community can
coalesce and produce something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Podcasting, which seems to be taking off in chemistry, focuses on audio and
video content, but seems divorced from other forms of content, and is
currently rather less than holistic. Currently, these two broad themes about
how the Web should evolve are more or less developing independently. The
prospects of coalescence are discussed.
Robert John Lancashire (
In 1997, we began collaboration with MDL
Information Systems Ltd and incorporated our spectroscopy (JCAMP-DX) viewer
code into MDL Chime. By 2005, when the contract ended, MDL had had over 2
million downloads of the free version of the browser plug-in.
Robert M. Hanson (St. Olaf College), Egon Willighagen (Cologne University Bioinformatics Center), Nicolas Vervelle, Timothy Driscoll (molvisions), and Miguel Howard (Jmol Project)
Jmol (http://www.jmol.org) is free software for displaying interactive 3D molecules. It is designed as a component that can be used as a standalone application, as an applet within the context of a web page, or as a display subsystem within a more sophisticated software package. Because it is written in Java and requires no special graphics hardware, Jmol runs on all major operating systems and web browsers. Jmol has been developed as a collaborative project using standard open-source software development methodologies and procedures. All source code is publicly available under the GNU licenses, facilitating experimentation, testing, public contributions, and peer review. Rendering representations can be controlled using an extended version of the RasMol scripting language. The Jmol applet allows web content developers to display interactive 3D representations of molecules within web pages, providing an upgrade path for users of the Chime web browser plugin. New capabilities are being added to Jmol on an ongoing basis. As Jmol has matured over the past few years, it has become an increasingly popular component in computer based molecular visualization. We expect Jmol's popularity to continue to grow as we continue to build into it additional new features, many of which will be demonstrated in this presentation.
Beatrice Botch, Roberta Day, William Vining, Stephen Hixson, Peter Samal, Barbara Stewart, David Hart (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Kenneth Rath, Alan Peterfreund (Peterfreund Associates)
Two self-paced chemistry courses were
written to help improve student preparedness for first semester General and
Organic Chemistry. These courses are delivered over the web using the OWL
(Online Web-based Learning) system developed at the
Woodgate and David Titheridge (
The BestChoice online tutorial
system designed by the authors has been used since 2002 in
Jordi Cuadros, Mike Karabinos (
This paper will discuss an online review
course in stoichiometry aimed at students who are about to enter college
chemistry and need a review of this important foundation material. The course
uses the ChemCollective's virtual lab (http://www.chemcollective.org/)
and the course delivery and problem solving tutor tools of Carnegie Mellon's
Online Learning Initiative (http://www.cmu.edu/oli/).
The course is set in the context of arsenic contamination in the groundwater
Stefan Kuhn, Tobias Helmus, Egon Willighagen and Christoph
JChemPaint (http://almost.cubic.uni-koeln.de/jrg/software/jchempaint/) is an open-source 2D structure editor for which recently two applet versions have been developed. One is a smaller viewer-only applet; the other is a larger editor applet. Based on the Chemistry Development Kit (CDK), the applet is quite rich in features, including 2D rendering of molecules and reactions, popup labels on atoms, structure diagram generation (diagram cleanup), optional use of templates, input/output capability including Chemical Markup Language (CML), SMILES, MDL molfile and many others, undo/redo capability, and much more. An installation of the editor applet is available on http://www.chemistry-development-kit.org/. The NMRShiftdb application (http://www.nmrshiftdb.org/) uses both the editor and the viewer applets. Being open-source, the JChemPaint applet can be customized for specific educational applications. Application scenarios in education as well as access information for interested users and potential contributors will be provided.
Barbara Stewart, Robert Kirk, Francois Amar, and Mitchell Bruce; (
InterChemNet (ICN, http://icn2.umeche.maine.edu/newnav/NewNavigator/LoginForm.cfm) is a web-based laboratory management and curriculum delivery system that incorporates spectroscopic instrumentation, student choice, and assessment of student learning. Data from studies evaluating spectroscopy curriculum modules in terms of assessment of student learning are presented. We discuss the use of ICN as a tool for action research in the laboratory setting, focusing on two modalities that can be facilitated with this technology: parallel curriculum improvement cycles and multi-campus assessment.
A wiki can be thought of as a combination
of a web site and a Word document. At its simplest, it can be read just like
any other web site, with no access privileges necessary, but its real power
lies in the fact that groups can collaboratively work on the content of the
site using nothing but a standard web browser. The wiki is gaining traction
in education, as an ideal tool for the increasing amount of collaborative
work done by both students and teachers. Students might use a wiki to
collaborate on a group report, compile data or share the results of their
research, while faculty might use the wiki to collaboratively author the
structure and curriculum of a course, and the wiki can then serve as part of
each person's course materials. Recently I've converted The Science of
Spectroscopy, a well-known educational web site (http://www.scienceofspectroscopy.info),
into a wiki so that the growing number of readers can now become writers and
collaboratively build a richer and more useful tool. I'll demo the site, give
a brief online tutorial on how to edit it, and provide any CONFCHEM
participant an account to edit the wiki.
Web-based instructional methods have shown
constant advancements in recent years. In the world of organic chemistry, online
structure drawing has become possible through a variety of applets and 3-D
visualization techniques are beginning to become highly commonplace. The next
mountain to be climbed is that of drawing organic reaction mechanisms, and
then to have the computer evaluate its correctness. This contribution will
focus on the progress towards that goal and the various techniques that might
be used to help students draw and to understand reaction mechanisms.
M. Hanson (
The Green Chemistry Assistant (GCA), http://fusion.stolaf.edu/gca, is a collaborative project between
Polik and Jordan R. Schmidt, (
WebMO (www.webmo.net) is
a free web-based interface to popular computational chemistry programs. WebMO
permits users to build 3-D molecular structures, submit multiple jobs,
monitor job progress, and view text and graphical results, all from within a
standard web-browser. WebMO overcomes the resource and accessibility
challenges associated with traditional GUI interfaces since it is installed
on a single server, requires no installation on student computers, and is
available anywhere on the internet. WebMO is simple enough for undergraduate
computational chemistry courses and flexible enough for computational
Green Chemistry is the design of chemical
products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of
hazardous substances. Often referred to as a form of molecular- level
pollution prevention, the incorporation of green chemistry principles into
the chemistry curriculum is providing new opportunities to enhance the
curriculum and engage a broader spectrum of students in the study of
chemistry. A key to gaining broad adoption of a greener chemistry curriculum
and sustaining the development of new educational materials is to actively
involve faculty from across the country in creating these materials. This
paper will describe how the development and dissemination of the GEMs
has facilitated a unique, community-based approach to educational materials
development that has the potential to both catalyze an exponential increase
in the number of faculty involved with and exposed to the green curriculum
and provide a diverse and continuously evolving collection of educational
materials. GEMs is an interactive, web-based database of Greener Education
Materials for Chemists. The database is designed to be a comprehensive
resource of educational materials including laboratory exercises, lecture
materials, course syllabi and multimedia content that illustrate chemical
concepts important for green chemistry.
(Interactive Learning Paradigms, Inc.) and Robert E. Belford (
Laboratory safety training in many academic
programs is restricted to a short introduction to laboratory rules and safety
equipment on the first day of laboratory work. Very often, there are few
additional safety resources beyond a Chemical Hygiene Plan binder or a
generic safety handout. Student comprehension and respect for safety suffers
as a result. This presentation will explore how the application of rather
simple techniques can inculcate the "culture of safety" that
students need to work safely and proceed professionally.
is a free, open-source course management system that emphasizes community
building, critical reflection, and collaborative work. It provides a powerful
array of tools not found in many commercial course management systems. It
includes facilities for web publishing, equation typesetting, content
management, adaptive prelabs and lessons, parameterized and hierarchical
homework banks, Flash and SCORM learning objects, assessment, detailed
student tracking, and record-keeping. Moodle is under active development, and
is supported by a large community of system administrators, teachers,
researchers, instructional designers and developers. Being open source, the
code can easily be modified to suit specific needs, and Moodle can run on any
server capable of running PHP and MySQL.
Jean-Claude Bradley (
Technology is enabling new ways to channel the relationship between teacher and student. The ability to provide an archive of recorded lectures in rich and convenient formats like screencasts, podcasts and vodcasts enable an instructor to explore additional means to integrate class material through activities such as games, blogs and conversation. This presentation will describe the implementation of such technologies in a university level organic chemistry class. See http://chem241.wikispaces.com.
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CONFCHEM on-line conferences are organized by the ACS Division of Chemical Education's Committee on Computers in Chemical Education (CCCE).