LabArchives is many things. It’s an electronic lab notebook, teaching tool, grade book and learning platform. It’s also a one-stop-shop for course content.
Inside of Lab Builder, our course content library, instructors can find and distribute things like lab manuals, protocols, assignments and projects. Lab Builder’s course packs contain everything instructors need to teach a course.
Our Resident Professor Natalie Stringer and collaborator Dan Carpenter have recently released LabBuilder’s Chemistry eCourse Pack. The two have used their teaching and real-world research experience to create a course pack full of engaging, authentic content. Even better, it’s being developed for remote instruction, too. A completely remote General Chemistry eCourse Pack is set to launch before the fall semester.
LabArchives writer, Olivia Sisson, caught up with Dan to learn more about this project:
How’d you find yourself working on this project? I was an Einstein Fellow back in 2005 and through that I made a lot of friends in the Washington D.C. area. Someone I knew there knew that Natalie was looking for someone with a background in science education and connected us. I was an Associate Professor of STEM Education at Concordia University, so I have experience with curriculum development. I have been at three universities and have face to face, blended and online teaching experience.
Who is this course pack for? This course pack is written for inorganic chemistry instructors for basic chemistry, and is best for first year college students or advanced high school students.
What was the first step in creating the course pack? We essentially had to create a somewhat traditional, general chemistry course that folks would be excited to use. I wanted to start with a focus on getting your feet wet with things like significant digits and measurements and then delve into more complicated stuff. We decided to start with simple, fun and interactive content and then scaffold to more complex topics.
When did you start creating this course pack? We started three months ago and planned to finish in April. We were slowed by COVID. I’ve got three kids at home. Teaching at the university, then teaching my own children really slowed things down, but we finished the course pack a few weeks ago!
Did COVID prompt you to change the course pack at all? Yes and no. It helped us realize that we could make a few changes pretty easily. I’ve taken some online courses myself so we brainstormed on how we could make some of this remote. We thought about what instructors might think about using the post like I had to do when I was taking an entomology course. My instructor would send materials to us via snail mail for a module, we would complete the module then send the work back. Then we would get the next lab module.
When COVID happened I thought about that experience and turned some of the content we were creating into chemistry students could do at home. We’re are also creating a separate remote chemistry course pack right now.
What are some of your favourite experiments in the course pack? I’m a science and math guy so I like to infuse applied statistics and math into what we do. In the course pack we have some stoichiometric stuff in there that I think is fun. We have a standard titration and cost analysis lab for antacids which is a fun applied math lab. We have some solubility stuff in the course pack that is fun to do.
I do a bit of home brewing actually, so that may be relevant come to think of it? I love that you bring that up. All of that is applied chemistry and biochemistry and there are a lot of programs in the country that teach brewing science. That could be something we incorporate into a course pack down the line perhaps. We really want to get feedback from instructors that use this course pack and continue to improve it.
Any advice for instructors on this new landscape? I’ve taught face to face, blended and online courses. The best practices for online learning are very robust but we just have to ‘Keep It Simple” and remember that we are teaching young adults. Whether we are teaching face to face or at a distance, there’s a person at the other end that has needs. Being excited about chemistry is one thing, but we must remember that students have needs as they learn that we must address. What we have provided here is a start. If you use something we haven’t provided, let us know so we can make this course pack better.