Collaborative Book Chapter for Future Students in an Intro Chemistry Course
– Drew Vartia, Chemistry, University of Kansas
In CHEM 149 online last spring (~35 undergraduate engineering students), I wanted to provide a more formal introduction to materials science. However, ready resources—especially in chemistry texts—don’t exist. What an opportunity! In a nutshell, students gradually and semi-collaboratively built these missing resources for future students in the spirit of a non-disposable assignment. Through a series of four writing assignments on particular topics, students gradually built a large repository of quality information that other students could draw on later. Because these supporting assignments were both small and gradual, I had the opportunity to intervene if necessary (e.g., if a student encountered and included misinformation.)
For the final project, each student built a comprehensive book chapter about a materials class of their choice. While the list of required topics for the book chapter was large, the task was accessible because much of the initial work was done by the class as a whole via the smaller assignments. Editing peer work to create single consistent style and significant supplementation with new additional information were also requirements of the final project.
Several students mentioned wanting to do well on supporting assignments, since their peers might see—or even rely on—their work. The format also satisfied my goal of trying collaboration in an online environment while still honoring student wishes for no assigned groups (mid-semester survey results).
Nearly all the student projects were of good to high quality. Notably, the assignment generated at least two exceptional and comprehensive book chapters for use by future CHEM 149 and CHEM 150 students. Check here for more details about this project.