5 Strategies to Maximize Your Chemistry Course Delivery Online or Off

9 Tips for Teaching Online with WebAssign
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Many chemistry instructors had to quickly pivot to remote instruction this spring, yet expectations for fall will be much higher. The variety of learning environments institutions are exploring present unique challenges and opportunities to maximize student success during a time of uncertainty.

From developing content for synchronous or asynchronous instruction, to preventing cheating in online exams, instructors have important considerations as they plan fall courses. Read on for peer-tested strategies and practical tips to help deliver a better teaching and learning experience—online or off.

The following tips were shared during the Summer of Learning Webinar Series for Math & Science Faculty.

1. Structure assignments in chunks using a variety of activity types

Research shows that students learn better with varied practice and bite-sized activities versus trying to learn a single topic or skill for an extended period. One solution is to give more frequent, smaller assignments due a few times a week instead of one big weekly assignment. Also try assigning a variety of activities—such as multimedia, mastery and end-of-chapter problems—because the approach to the material is different. If you’re recording lecture videos for asynchronous instruction, opt for shorter 5- to 10-minute videos that will keep students more engaged. If you use these strategies, there’s a better chance that information will stick.

Watch these recorded sessions to learn more:


2. Keep students on-task through regular, structured communication

According to an April survey of more than 2,000 college students, 80% claimed COVID-19 had a negative impact on their mental health. Given this environment, how do you maintain student engagement and keep them on-task? Offering “face-to-face” time during virtual office hours is critical, but don’t forget to be available for additional one-on-one support as well. You can also use gradebook reports to send personalized messages to both at-risk students and high-performing students to strengthen your student-teacher relationship. One Chemistry instructor recommends building an FAQ page as you get emails from your students with technical or content-related questions. But fostering interactivity doesn’t have to be limited to course content either. One student appreciated a professor’s weekly discussion board called “Corona Rants,” where students could air their frustrations and develop a sense of community with their peers.

Watch these recorded sessions to learn more:


3. Give students the day-one support they need via preparation tools

Supporting students at the beginning of the semester has always been an important part of ensuring a successful experience throughout the course. On top of helping them navigate your syllabus and orienting them to your course materials, you also must contend with the likelihood that they experienced severe disruptions in their spring courses. This means students will enter your course feeling unprepared. To ensure a trouble-free semester start, give them time to familiarize themselves with the technology they’ll be using as part of your course. Making the Introductory Assignments in OWLv2 required, for example, can help explain navigation, assignment structure, grading and other technical information in advance. You can also address learning gaps early on by offering opportunities for self-paced review. Using diagnostic and preparation tools—like Quick Prep and Math Review—before the course begins or during the first week of class can help to level-set your students.

Watch these recorded sessions to learn more:


4. Rethink your goals for exams and assessments in an online learning environment

All instructors want to preserve academic integrity during these unusual times, but it’s impossible to completely eliminate cheating in an online environment. Given this reality, focus on what you can do to reduce it. Online proctoring is what most instructors think of first to help curb cheating during online exams. But even without an online proctoring service, there are ways you can design exams to prevent cheating. Try setting a time limit for your test, so students have less time to search for answers that they don’t already know or set a password to be sure they can’t access any tests ahead of time. You can also use a database of algorithmic questions to generate different variations for each student. All students will be tested on the same concepts, but each will have questions with different numbers, chemicals and even wording, so they can’t trade answers.

Watch this recorded session to learn more:


5. Focus on teaching lab concepts, not replacing the wet lab experience

While there’s no perfect way to replicate the learning experience of a physical Chemistry lab, online simulations and assessments can be powerful learning tools to teach students laboratory concepts and skills. Whether you’re planning for in-person labs, virtual labs or a combination of both, online lab resources can help enhance the learning experience for your students. Use simulations and videos to help them understand the techniques before they come into lab. Assign pre-work and give practical exams that can be automatically graded to save you time. If you have the ability to record a lab experiment on video, you can pair this with assessment questions to simulate the work students would be doing in the lab.

Watch this recorded session to learn more:


Need more help to get ready for fall? Visit the OWLv2 website for additional training resources, technical support, online help and more.