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Building, Making, Doing: Techniques in the Organic Chemistry Laboratory

As the director/instructor of the sophomore-level organic chemistry laboratory course (CHEM 2311), it was apparent to me that most students enrolled have very little experience handling the large quantity of glassware and equipment required to perform the experiments.  Though I discuss and often demonstrate techniques in my lab lecture and students could read about them in their textbook, students still felt nervous performing the techniques themselves, especially the first time.  Therefore, my goal was to create a series of videos which demonstrated each skill and laboratory protocol used in the course.  These visual learning tools would give students confidence and a clear theoretical understanding of the techniques used in their experiments, resulting in fewer mistakes, better safety, and more time for intellectual problem-solving and critical thinking skills.  With the help of two project TAs, and the OIT filming crew, I was able to create 24 technique videos and 6 tips videos, which were freely available throughout the semester to students and the teaching assistants for the course.  Initial surveys have been extremely positive and indicate that indeed the vast majority of the students watched each video and felt that they were helpful in their preparation for lab.  Experienced TAs reported a noticeable improvement in students’ confidence and their abilities to build apparatus and perform techniques.  New TAs also felt the videos were an invaluable resource and enabled them to instruct knowledgeably.  Overall, the project was a success and the addition of the videos to the organic chemistry laboratory course improved student performance at the bench, enriched the course curriculum, as well as engaged students through a medium they enjoyed.