Technology-Enhanced Active Learning in Chemistry

At Virginia Wesleyan College, a transformation has been taking place in the chemistry curriculum. Over the last eight years, courses have changed to more closely mirror the way scientists work, giving students the opportunity to focus on inquiry-based experiments and become more actively involved in the learning process. In the next step of the process, and with the equipment provided by the HP EdTech Innovator Award, classrooms will transition from active learning spaces to interactive environments equipped with technology to support collaboration, interaction between student groups, greater transparency of student work for instructors, and more immediate feedback for students. In the laboratory, students will use collaborative mobile technology for the acquisition, processing, sharing, and comparative analysis of data.

Using tablet PCs to compare and analyze data in real time with immediate instructor feedback, students will sharpen their evaluation and analytical skills. Instructors will be able to pose more interesting research questions with a greater emphasis on experimental design and data analysis than is possible in traditional verification experiments. In the new, interactive learning environments that will be made possible with this award, students will be able to collaborate more closely during active learning exercises in the classroom and to record, share, and analyze data more readily in the labs. Student groups will be able to compare their results at the end of a session, increasing their confidence and deepening understanding. The technology will also allow students to access visualizations of chemical structures and manipulate them onscreen, giving them a more thorough grasp of the complex structural features of compounds, especially large biomolecules -- often difficult for students to visualize unaided.