Elon University is located in central North Carolina and we don’t often have severe winter storms. In fact, in my previous 12 years at Elon, not once did we have a cancelled day of classes during our fall or spring semesters. This spring semester, however, four days of classes were lost to winter storms, three of which were on days I teach my Organic 2 class. Based on how I designed my syllabus, I figured I could sacrifice one or two days of class, but certainly not three. I found myself in a position in which I had to make up at least one entire class period worth of material. I decided to accelerate the class somewhat for the next few meetings. To accomplish this, I gave students, ahead of time, several clicker questions that I would normally present for the first time during class. I asked students to solve the problems on their own, after having read assigned sections from the textbook. During class, I didn’t need to use the time they otherwise would use to solve the problem and submit their answers. Furthermore, I cut down on the time spent in class we would typically devote to discussing each of the clicker questions.
I held two such accelerated classes and I was impressed with the outcome. I was half expecting complaints from my students, because the plan increased the demands for them to learn on their own from the book (at least temporarily), but I didn’t hear a peep. Moreover, my students genuinely seemed on board with what we covered, which is quite remarkable considering that the material we covered in just the first day included: conjugate addition of a weak nucleophile, the acid-catalyzed formation and hydrolysis of acetals, the acid-catalyzed formation and hydrolysis of imines, the Wolff-Kishner reduction, the acid- and base-catalyzed hydrolysis of nitriles, and the beginnings of aldol reactions. No doubt, the organization of the course and the students’ comfort with mechanisms helped considerably.