Online Homework And Student Success In Preparatory Chemistry

General chemistry is a foundational course that serves as a gateway to many STEM degrees. A high level of preparedness and motivation to succeed in STEM coursework correlates with success in general chemistry courses, and general chemistry is vital to persistence of students in STEM. Studies have indicated that an increasing number of students, especially underrepresented minority populations, placed into preparatory chemistry courses do not advance to general chemistry. This lack of advancement is an indicator that a one-size-fits-all preparatory chemistry course does not sufficiently target students’ cognitive and non-cognitive needs. In order to better support, prepare, and motivate students in STEM at UC Davis, an online, adaptive-responsive summer preparatory chemistry course (SP-Chem using ALEKS) was piloted as an alternative to placement exams and the fall, classroom-based preparatory chemistry course (WLD-41C) used for placement into general chemistry. Student performance in general chemistry was comparatively evaluated for four placement paths (SP-Chem, WLD-41C, placement exams, and repeating the course). Additionally, indicators of STEM persistence, namely student motivation and STEM identity, were surveyed and comparatively evaluated. Our findings of the effectiveness of an online, adaptive-responsive preparatory chemistry course, using both cognitive and non-cognitive measures, demonstrate the promise that online learning during the summer holds for improving student performance and persistence in general chemistry and STEM coursework.

Erin E. Wilson1, Sarah A. Kennedy*2

1 Chemistry Department, Westminster College, 319 South Market Street, New Wilmington, Pnnsylvania 16172, United States

2 Chemistry Department, Radford University, 801 East Main Street, Radford, Virginia 24142, United States

Online Approaches to Chemical Education

Chapter 9, pp 101–130

DOI: 10.1021/bk-2017-1261.ch009

ACS Symposium Series, Vol. 1261

ISBN13: 9780841232471eISBN: 9780841232457

Publication Date (Web): October 26, 2017

Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society


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Use of online learning systems in place of traditional paper-and-pencil homework in general chemistry courses has tremendously expanded over the past decade. These systems, like paper-and-pencil homework, serve the purpose of providing students with practice in essential problem-solving skills. However, due to advances in both technology and cognitive science, online learning systems have become substantially different than paper-and-pencil homework in pedagogically important ways. In this review, we discuss the range of features of online learning systems such as immediate feedback, multiple attempts, linking to resources, adaptive technology, and mastery requirements in light of modern cognitive science principles to reveal potential for improvements in student learning and possible student learning pitfalls. Online learning systems can be categorized as responsive, mastery-based and adaptive. We provide a guide to this categorization and the features built into current online learning systems for general chemistry and review the nascent body of literature on the impact of online learning systems on student outcomes in general chemistry and other courses. Finally, we discuss some new developments that may soon arrive on the scene for online learning systems.

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