M. Zubitur, M. Sánchez

University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU (SPAIN)
There seems to be a widespread perception amongst researchers and teachers that many students find chemistry difficult [1]. Having a good knowledge of molecular structure is crucial to work out polarity of compounds, intermolecular forces and their relationship with properties. In addition, it is very important to understand the inorganic systems that explain the behaviour of atoms, ions and molecules in understanding the phenomena of organic chemistry [2]. Therefore, the understanding of spatial structures is central to the discipline of chemistry. However, in textbooks molecular structures are represented as two-dimensional objects and as result, students might find difficult to switch from 2D to 3D structures or images. Using 3 dimensional models help students acquire a better understanding of molecular geometry and encourage active learning. Computer visualizations now offer an interesting possible alternative to concrete or physical models [3]. Jmol is one of the most prevalent molecular visualization tools in STEM education. It is a free open source software for interactive molecular visualization.

This work describes the implementation of the Jmol visualization tool in a module on General Chemistry for Engineers during the academic year 2016-2017. The goals were three-fold. To use the Jmol visualization application as a teaching tool for classroom demonstration. To provide students with the skills to use the molecular visualization tool for their own learning process. Finally, to actively engage students with generation and manipulation of molecular models. Jmol application was used during Lectures to teach about molecular structure. Students then had to download and use the application on their own to complete several worksheets. Later on, Jmol molecular models were also used to aid student understanding of organic chemistry, including isomerism. Additional worksheets and assignments involved the use of Jmol visualization tool. The evaluation of the software implementation on the module was carried out by marking the worksheets and by a survey that was conducted among the students.

[1] Coll Richard K., Taylor Neil Alternative conceptions of chemical bonding held by upper secondary and tertiary students. Research in Science and Technological Education, vol. 19(2), pp. 171-191, 2001.
[2] Akkuzu N., M. A. Uyulgan. An epistemological inquiry into organic chemistry education: exploration of undergraduate students´ conceptual understanding of functional groups. Chemistry Education Research and Practice vol. 17, pp. 36-57, 2016.
[3] Kozma R. and Russel J. Multimedia learning of chemistry. In R. E. Mayer (Ed). The Cambridge handbook of Multimedia Learning, Cambridge University Press, 2005.