Chemistry Bridge

Modules for self-paced learning and review of complex and recurring core concepts

“Chemistry Bridge will allow digital resources to complement what I do one-on-one”

—John Essigmann, Leitch Professor of Chemistry and Biological Engineering

The opportunity:

Across the sciences, certain key concepts have traditionally proven challenging for students at all levels. These concepts are typically taught in introductory classes, but faculty must review them repeatedly in advanced classes across the curriculum. The Chemistry Bridge project is developing self-paced modules to assist mastery of these key concepts outside the classroom setting. The modules can be used independently by students, or as a faculty tool to supplement instruction.

The project:

Students visit the Chemistry Bridge web site (currently under development) and take a “pre-test” to assess their understanding of the subtopics that constitute a core concept. Upon submitting their responses, students are presented with a “learning pathway”—a curated set of web sites, videos and simulations that have been selected to address that student’s learning goals. After completing the steps in the pathway, the student takes a “post-test” to assess how well they understood the concept.

Areas of innovation:

These modules are expected to advance teaching and learning at several levels:

  • They provide a model and potential platform for creating self-paced, customized learning pathways that allow novice and advanced students to better understand and master key concepts.
  • They will improve efficiency by reducing the repetition of core concepts in advanced classes.
  • They promote community curation of a set of existing web-based teaching materials that best explain the concepts.

Details:

The project is developing modules in the areas of:

  • Buffers
  • Electrochemistry and Redox
  • Quantum Mechanics

The key concepts are drawn from:

  • 5.111 – Principles of Chemical Science
  • 5.12 – Organic Chemistry I
  • 5.60 – Thermodynamics and Kinetics

Sustainability considerations:

The selection and creation of each new module initially requires a collaborative effort among faculty and domain experts to identify key concepts and their constituent subtopics.

Populating each new module requires a set of informed content aggregators (the project is working with advanced MIT undergraduates) who curate the best online teaching materials.

The tool that delivers the learning experience will require technical support and feature improvements to support evolving community needs.

Future directions:

Although the tool is still under development, targeted for a Fall 2012 launch, the following future efforts have been identified:

  • Feature refinements following usability testing with students.
  • Expanding the number of modules to include other key concepts.
  • Forming partnerships to implement the modules across Chemistry, and adapting the tool for use in other departments.
This project was supported by the MIT Office of Educational Innovation and Technology and was one of the experiments in course modularity conducted by the MIT Council on Education Technology in 2011-2012 with funding from the Class of ’60.
 
Written by Mark Brown

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