INTEGRATION OF WET LABS, COMPUTATIONAL LABS AND LECTURES IN UNDERGRADUATE CHEMISTRY EDUCATION
Wentworth Institute of Technology (UNITED STATES)
This abstract reports the integration of students participation in a physical lab and lecture classroom with the use of different types of virtual labs. After researching and comparing the different types of virtual lab packages available, including ChemCollective, fee-based virtual lab packages offered by different publishers or computational labs/applets developed by the Concord consortium or other institutions, three types of virtual lab experiences were chosen for this study.
The first type of virtual labs consisted of freely available computational labs developed by the Concord consortium. The labs chosen for this study included: the atomic structure, chemical bonds, molecular geometry, intermolecular attractions, solubility, chemical reactions and redox. In some instances these labs were used in conjunction with traditional wet labs as pre-labs, tutorials or post-labs, whereas in others they were used to substitute for traditional labs. The second type of virtual labs were used as online lecture assignments because 1 out of 3 lectures in the course were online. They consisted of simple and straight forward applications and extensions of the lecture topics. These virtual labs were developed by Glencoe/McGraw Hill and are freely available on the web. Topics covered by these virtual labs included: renewable energy, properties of elements, when is water safe to drink?, what is the pH of common solutions? and where in the US is acid rain most severe? This second type of virtual labs were combined with a third type of web-based experiences or simulations aimed at familiarizing students with topics that are difficult to cover because of limited face-to-face lecture time available or limited lab resources. This third type of web-based experiences were developed by using a combination of simulations and resources freely available on the web and posted by the department of chemistry of Iowa State University, US government agencies and specific simulation sites. The topics included for this third type of web-based experience were radioactivity, radon and your health, electrochemistry and other specialized topics tailored to fit students’ interest including cement and concrete chemistry or corrosion.
This study provides evidence that integrating the use of wet labs, a variety of virtual lab experiences and lectures in the undergraduate chemistry classroom can facilitate students learning and critical thinking by providing them with an opportunity to design and repeat their own laboratory experiments and apply or extend lecture topics to real-life examples. Importantly, the choice of virtual labs and the methods used to integrate those virtual labs into the undergraduate chemistry curriculum seem to be critical to trigger the student interest in learning chemistry topics and to culminate in an efficient learning experience.