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Thursday, June 09, 2005

student blog experiment in organic chemistry

The term is over and I am following up on the extra credit project I gave to students at the start. Students had to draw chemical reaction examples in a blog and link to peer-reviewed references.

Here is the list of blogs.

These are my findings:

1) Out of 60 students in CHEM 243 10 attempted the project, which is more than I expected since it was only worth 1% extra credit.
2) The use of screencasting to demonstrate how to use all the required software was pretty effective.
3) Most students submitted right before the deadline, preventing a suitable time for feedback and corrections. Next time, I will spread out the work over several deadlines earlier in the term.
4) Instead of having students create multiple blogs, I will simply give them access to the class blog in Blogger. It will save them a step and will make it easier to keep track of new posts. It will also enable other students to make comments more easily. If they wish to have their own blog, they can simply copy their post.
5) Finding peer-reviewed reference was problematic for most students. I think next time I will have them use CiteULike to force that issue. Another advantage of CiteULike is that we can easily tag all the articles for the class.
6) Students showed a lot of originality and used other blogs (like Xanga), other image repositories and other ways of drawing molecules. I actually like that for the most part, except when the deviated from the core requirements of the project (like only using online peer-reviewed references).
7) There were problems with the version of ChemSketch hosted by Drexel. We discovered that the free online version worked very well for our purposes.
8) I was impressed with the conversation that this project elicited as the students went through the exercise of applying the class material to something they could relate to (like the synthesis of a pharmaceutical). Constructivism works.
9) The students who did the project now have a link that they can use any time as part of an ad-hoc learning portfolio. And the skills they learned (creating a blog, using Flickr, Chemsketch, searching the literature, etc.) are definitely transferable.


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