A hybrid general chemistry course – really?

Yes, really!  CH 231 will be offered at Oregon State University in a hybrid format in Winter 2014.  CH 231 is the first term of a three-course sequence comprising a year of science-majors general chemistry. Between 3 and 7 sections of CH 231 are offered in Fall and Winter terms and each section has about 180 students.  CH 231 covers topics ranging from quantum mechanics, to bonding and stoichiometry.  I teach the class from an Atoms-first perspective, so quantum mechanics is one of the first topics covered. The majority of the students who take this class are first-year college students majoring in one of the sciences, chemical, biological, or environmental engineering, or are planning to enter one of the health-related fields (pharmacy, medical school, dental school, veterinary school, physician’s assistant programs). While they are, for the most part, interested in science, many have a somewhat weak background in science, and poor algebra and problem-solving skills. This combination leads a significant number of these students to do poorly in CH 231, or not complete the course at all (a high DFW rate in edu-speak). My hope is that spending a greater percentage of f2f time on conceptual understanding and problem-solving activities will help all students leave the general chemistry sequence with a much better grasp of the underlying concepts in chemistry and much improved problem-solving skills.

“Form a study group” This is usually all the attention given to encouraging students to work together in science classes.  Group work is regarded as something done outside of the actual class time and without the support of the course instructor. I am hoping to change this mindset with a hybrid version of the CH 231-3 sequence.

One of the reasons I am choosing to develop a hybrid course (and ultimately a hybrid sequence of three courses, CH 231, 232, 233) is to continue moving away from being the “sage on the stage”  I firmly believe it is true that you really learn something when you have to explain it to others.  I’ve been amazed at how much better my students are understanding the chemical concepts as I have spent less time lecturing and more time having them work together on indepth and multi-concept problems in a supported environment.  I am looking for ways to incorporate online collaboration in addition to that which will continue to take place in the f2f classes.

Using short, 5-10 minute, video lectures to supplement the textbook will, I hope, result in students coming to the f2f classes with the basics already partly mastered.  One distinct advantage to video lectures is that the students can watch them as many times as needed to make sense of the topic – something that is not possible with traditional lectures, they are a one-shot deal.

It will be interesting to see how the class evolves over the course of the summer as I work on preparing the new course materials. I’m looking forward to the challenge of taking the best of both worlds and melding them into a single class.

Let the adventure begin!

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3 Responses to A hybrid general chemistry course – really?

  1. Cub Kahn says:

    Margie, thanks for the excellent description of your upcoming hybrid CH 231. The elements you’ve outlined here, including in-class group problem solving that you’ve already successfully implemented, will create an engaging blended learning environment for general chemistry students. You’re right on track!

    • freehlik says:

      I am so lucky to have spent two terms with you Margie! Once in WIC and now in the Hybrid learning community. Thanks for your enthusiasm about your teaching; it certainly is catching. I’m looking forward to hearing how the implementation goes. See you this summer!
      -Kryn

  2. younes says:

    very good article thank you very much

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