First and foremost, I hope you and your students are all well, and that you stay well through the coronavirus crisis.

Like many colleges and universities around the country, my university has gone exclusively to remote learning. We are currently on spring break, and our classes are scheduled to resume on Monday, March 23. I therefore have a few more days to prepare and get things in order. In the meantime, I want to share my plan for my organic course, in case you find some things helpful as you make plans for your own course.

For years, I have been teaching a flipped classroom. As pre-class assignments, my students have required readings from the textbook—roughly a dozen pages each. During class, I use clicker questions to assess student learning from the reading and to set up subsequent discussions. In a typical class period, we cover 5-6 clicker questions, which gives us about 5-10 minutes of discussion between questions.

We hit our stride with this flipped-classroom format partway through the fall semester, and we are now three-quarters of the way through the year. Therefore, as we transition to remote learning, my goal is to minimize the disruption involving the kinds of things that have not only been effective, but have also come to represent a certain degree of comfort for my students. I therefore plan to keep the reading assignments from the textbook and to have students answer the clicker questions I would normally ask during class.

Fortunately, the clickers I adopted this year are in the form of a phone app, called Squarecap, which I previously described here. For each morning that our class would normally meet (M, W, F), I will make the roughly half-dozen clicker questions available, and I will leave them available throughout the day. Students will use their phones to both access the questions and submit their answers.

The discussions that we normally have in between clicker questions won’t be feasible. I was considering making the clicker questions available one at a time, and then having live discussions via a platform like Webex, but my students are scattered across different time zones. Furthermore, I don’t think it would be reasonable for me to force my students to be available for a live class during this challenging time.

Instead, to mimic those discussions, I’ve decided to make a video explanation for each clicker question. I will ask my students to watch the video explanation for a particular clicker question immediately after they submit their answer for that question. Then they’re on to the next clicker question.

If you’re interested in doing anything like this yourself, there are a couple things I should point out. First, Squarecap has told me this: “For any teachers who need to adopt Squarecap for the first time to support the transition to online classes, we’ll be offering the platform for free through July 1.” You can contact Squarecap at help@squarecap.com, and you can find some useful information about using Squarecap here. Second, I’m happy to share my clicker questions on Squarecap, as well as my video explanations. So far, I have made one video explanation, which is for the following clicker question from Chapter 19:

What is the major product of the following sequence of reactions?

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The video explanation is here. I’ll continue to create others throughout the week and make them available.

When you watch that video, I think you’ll be entertained by the closed-captioning at the bottom of the screen. It was done automatically by the software I used (Kaltura), and there are quite a few humorous errors as it attempted to interpret the organic chemistry jargon… (Perhaps one day I’ll figure out what the “cliff hillock addition reaction” is!)

I’ll try to update you all soon. Stay well!

-Joel Karty, Elon University

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