Let me preface this post by saying that I believe all chemistry is best learned in a kinesthetic, interactive, face-to-face environment; where faculty and students can synchronously engage in a philosophical debate over electrostatic attractions, reaction energetics, and product probability. Don’t even get me started on the laboratory experience. You’ve got concerns about academic rigor? ACS accreditation? Students cheating? I hear you.

That being said, with our current situation, it might be best if we fast-track our way towards “acceptance.” Whether you wanted to be in the virtual classroom or not, I’d like to welcome you to our space. My name is Annalisa Jordan, and I’ve been teaching chemistry courses in the hybrid format for almost a decade. The purpose of this post is to share with you some of the mistakes I’ve made, lessons I’ve learned, and resources I’ve gathered while teaching chemistry online in the hopes that, first and foremost, we finish off our spring semesters with positive student-learning outcomes and our heads above the water. As a bonus, you might even stumble upon tools that make your content more accessible to a larger body of students.

Below is the most important lesson I’ve learned in teaching chemistry online:

Lesson #1: Time Is Valuable.

Last week, you did some training, pre-recorded some lectures, and made a plan for how the rest of the semester is going to wrap up. Awesome. Go with it. I genuinely hope your semester sticks to “Plan A.” However, in the coming weeks, if you find yourself overwhelmed, falling behind in prep and struggling to develop your own online library of lectures, know that this is normal. You are not supposed to build a plane while flying it, and this is what is being asked of faculty in our current state of affairs.

My Suggestion:

Don’t remake the wheel unless you need to. There are a number of professionally made, generic, organic chemistry tutorials produced by PhDs in the field. If you would like tutorials specific to Joel Karty’s text, I am temporarily making my online-lecture library available to this Teach the Mechanism community (with permission, of course). I’ve recorded over 80 tutorials between my Organic 1 and 2 courses. This content is not an “all-inclusive” lecture library. It contains snippets of content that I’ve developed, over four years, to support my students for whom English is a second language and to preserve our valuable face-to-face class time for application practice rather than lecture. Some tutorials are well-done, while a number mention stories only my students will find amusing. Regardless, all the recordings are chemically accurate and follow Karty’s text. Please keep in mind that a number of these tutorials were created for the 1st Edition of the text, but the link I’ve shared with you below reflects all the content for both editions.

Annalisa Jordan, Ph.D. Chemistry Tutorials: This link will take you to Annalisa’s Google Drive folder, where you will find a brief “How to Access the Tutorials” informational document and a detailed spreadsheet that contains the links for each video tutorial. These tutorials have been posted, and are being maintained, by the generosity of Annalisa Jordan.

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A screenshot of Tutorial #4 (under the “All Organic Tutorials” tab on the spreadsheet): Acidity Trends Practice
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A screenshot of Tutorial #71 (under the “All Organic Tutorials” tab on the spreadsheet): Reactions in Organic Synthesis: How to Write Properly

For now, I recommend that you save your time and energy for fielding student questions (they will be coming 24/7), managing student expectations, developing online assessments (this is a huge time sink), and most importantly, staying healthy. Over the coming days, your time is going to quickly disappear. We are going to add hats as work-from-home parents, caretakers, and IT support staff on top of our normal academic duties. As chemists, we are so quick to collaborate in our scholarship. It is especially reassuring, given these difficult circumstances, that we will be able to collaborate in our classrooms, too.

-Annalisa Jordan, St. Catherine University

Feel free to share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below!

2 thoughts on “Maintaining Pace As We Evolve Online: Lesson #1

  1. You’re a gem!! Thanks so much! I love the quote about building the plane while trying to fly it.

    1. Absolutely, Beth! I hope you find something useful and feel free to share. Best of luck. We are all in this together.

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