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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Winter 09 term post-mortem: SpectralGame implementation

Our winter term at Drexel just ended. Following up on my previous post-mortem analysis, here are some observations from having taught Organic Chemistry II (CHEM242) this term:

1) The big news of the term is that I had a chance to try out the SpectralGame in my class for the first time (mainly to teach NMR). Andrew Lang first created the game in Second Life and it worked fine but there were only a few students willing to go to the trouble of setting up an account there. By creating a web version the game became much easier for anyone to access. Antony Williams then assisted us with providing spectra from ChemSpider and Robert Lancashire made some modifications of JSpecView to increase security.

Andy also happened to create a top score list, which turned out to be a key to the success of the game and removed the necessity to set aside time during the workshops to run races. Now I could just specify a date and give out a prize to the student from our class who scored highest. That worked well and I gave out 3 prizes this term (molecular model kits and a textbook). We're submitting this for publication soon - see draft.

2) I usually provide a small (2%) extra credit assignment for students who want to go beyond what we learned in class. During the past few terms I have asked them to do projects in Second Life to learn how to create 3D molecules and posters. Since we didn't do any races in Second Life this term I asked them to focus on NMR analysis and upload their reports on the class wiki. They had to find an NMR spectrum on ChemSpider and explain the peaks. Normally I get maybe hald a dozen submissions but this term there were 35! (out of 135 students). Next term, I will have to re-evaluate Second Life to see how to leverage what is best done there.

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