Could not download file: This paper is available to authorised users only.


J. Dao, M. Caffero, A. Fraiman

Northeastern Illinois University (UNITED STATES)
Recently, there has been a significant change from single session verification labs that were conducted individually or in pairs, to inquiry or research-based lab experiments that evolve over several sessions in the laboratory and are conducted in larger teams. These experiments more accurately reflected the research process within academia and industry. Additionally, this kind of laboratory experiment required continual collaboration, coordination and active exchange of ideas among the team members both in and out of the lab. To successfully complete these experiments and the final lab report, all of the team members needed to contribute and analyze their shared findings as well as decide on their next steps. Instead of a single-authored report, this new model required a much more intensive team effort that would eventually produce a final product. While these new laboratory designs conferred many benefits to the students, it also added another significant level of complexity to successfully completing a laboratory experiment and report.
To enable this increased student collaboration in an efficient and productive manner, the Chem-Wiki site was implemented and tested in organic chemistry laboratory using the Biodiesel module developed for CASPiE (the Center for Authentic Research in Education), an NSF supported grant. Web 2.0 collaborative software was designed to help people involved in a common task achieve their goals online. The most widely known example of this is wikipedia which allows many users worldwide to share their expertise within a joint framework and continually update and edit each others’ work.
The Chem-Wiki provided an effective tool to address the changing environment of the laboratory experiments. First, the Chem-Wiki provided a dynamic virtual space for discussing and reporting the laboratory findings. With the Chem-Wiki, students could discuss their results continually, and create and edit their findings. This made the laboratory process a truly dynamic experience. This collaboration extended much beyond the physical confines of the laboratory and created a dynamic boundless community of learners without the restrictions of space and time.
Second, the ease of organizing and reorganizing information through the Chem-Wiki technology allows students to discuss and debate the best manner for synthesizing their findings. Since the material can be easily manipulated online, the students can integrate many different viewpoints, and experiment with the best ways to communicate their findings.
Finally, the Chem-Wiki exposed the students to an exciting new technology that appears to be the future of online collaboration and the sharing of ideas. Through the process of implementation, I discovered that many of the students were unfamiliar with this technology and were not versed in its usage. Upon the completion of the laboratory experiment, these students were not only exposed to the manner in which research is conducted, but were also able to manipulate a technology that could enhance their learning experience.