Redesigning an organic laboratory course for remote learning: incorporating Lab@Home kits and other techniques for teaching organic chemistry online
Many cities in the world were placed under various lockdowns to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which also forced many schools to shift into full online mode of teaching and learning. In the Philippines, partial onsite classes only resumed after nearly 2 years of strict online classes. Of critical concern then was the teaching of laboratory courses. This necessitated the re-design of the usual laboratory experiments to a Lab@Home course to provide a semesterâ€™s worth of an organic laboratory course to college students of the Ateneo de Manila University. Here, we present a Lab@Home curriculum that covers core organic chemistry concepts, such as purification and separation of organic compounds, reactivity and qualitative tests, stereochemistry, and molecular spectroscopy (IR and NMR). This Lab@Home course involved sending boxed kits containing laboratory materials and reagents that allowed students at home to perform small-scale experiments. Aside from reinforcing key concepts in the accompanying lecture class, it also provided them with experiential learning of practical laboratory techniques such as setting up an experiment and real data collection. Safety first is maintained, and aside from providing the usual protective gear, safety is further assured with two important features: (1) the hazards classification of the reagents in the kit would not exceed the everyday life hazards of common household chemicals (e.g., kitchen cleaning reagents) and provided in very small amounts, and (2) running of experiments were done with online synchronous supervision majority of the time. The success of the course is the achievement of the CLOs, from the assessments as well as from feedback taken from surveys and interviews with students and instructors at the end of the semester. Overall student performance showed an average final grade of 85%, and student response to the curriculum was generally positive. Further improvements should be implemented to make experiments more enriching and ensure Lab@Home can become an effective tool for teaching remote laboratory classes.
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