You are here

A Web Page in Chemical Education


Carl H. Snyder
Chemistry Department, University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL 33124

Note: This article was scanned using OCR from the Spring 1996 CCCE Newsletter. Please contact us if you identify any OCR errors.
          For several years I have been using e-mail in courses with the dual goals of adopting electronic communication as a pedagogical tool and inducing students to become familiar with e-mail for its own sake. Here I describe briefly a minor disappoint ment in student response to e·mail, and an attempt at using Web quizzes to motivate students toward the use of the Web and electronic communication.
          Undergraduates at the University of Miami can gain access to e-mail through two routes: 1) via individual, student accounts on a server dedicated exclusively to student use and 2) through class accounts on one of the University's mainframes. The individual, student accounts are private accounts, valid throughout a student's career at the University; the class accounts are class based. They include all students registered for any given class and terminate at the end of the semester. The two are independent of each other; at any give time a student may have access to either, both or neither.
          My own use of e-mail in classes has operated exclusively through class accounts. These have the advantage of providing easy construction of distribution lists, and liberal instructor privileges, including access to student directories and ease of determining the date of the latest student logon. In my initial foray into electronic communication I attempted to motivate students by awarding extra credit to students who submitted multiple-choice test questions electronically. Students created them and placed them in their own directories, and I used my own access to student directories to examine them. This work is described in "Applications of Networked Computers and Electronic Mail in a Chemistry Course for Nonscience Students," CHEMCONF '93: Applications ofT echnology in Teaching Chemistry, Summer, 1993, paper #11. Anonymous FTP: Path:/inforM/EdRes/Faculty_Resources_and_Support/ChemConference. LISTSERV:
          The results were disappointing. As noted in the reference, the higher-ranked students were generally"more likely [than lower-ranked students] to submit coursework electronically, perhaps because of differences in malivation and/or skills." Although I have discontinued this form of extra credit, I recently found the same trend appearing in logins taking place during the second semester of a nonmajors course that I currently teach. For those students who took the only examination given to date, the following data correlates the student's examination grade with the student's latest login date, as of 15 March 1996.
Grade Login Date
94 Never
89 08Mar
84 Never
84 08Mar
82 never
80 07Mar
80 06Mar
79 never
76 07Feb
76 never
70 14Mar
68 12Mar
66 never
66 never
64 07Feb
62 07Feb
60 never
58 never
54 never
42 never

          Paralleling the earlier, general correlation of class standing with electronic submission of extra-credit work, the examination grade appears to correlate roughly with the likelihood of a continuing interest in logging in. I find it disappointing to be unable to induce lower-achieving students to use electronic communication, even though I have tried a variety of inducements. As a new form of motivation, I recently developed a rapid and easy method for converting multiple choice examinations into practice tests that can be placed on a Web page. Now students can not only gain access to file examinations posted on the Chemistry Web page, but they can take these examinations for practice at their convenience. (I have not yet worked out a satisfactory method to record a score or grade. Also, in what follows it's important to recognize that any student who wishes to and who knows the ways of the Web can read the html coding to uncover all the right answers quickly.) Briefly, once the examination is at hand the process starts with a series of macros written for the word processing program I use. The general strategy involves: 

1. Writing and using a macro that formats the multiplechoice answers for each question into a unnumbered list. 

2. Applying a macro that produces a NO (wrong) html code for each one of the multiple choice answers. 

3. Manually converting each correct answer from the NO into a YES (right) html code. 

4. Using a macro to write an html NAME for each question. 

5. Writing a small set of NO files, each of which states that an answer is wrong and allows return to the question. 

6. Writing one YES file for each correct answer to provide a link to the next question (or, for the last question, to another portion of the Web page) via a NAME link. I have converted nine file examinations into three sets of three practice examinations each and have placed them in a Web page: 

http://www 02unit2a/quiz.html

... /1 02unit2b/quiz.html 

... /1 02unit2c/quiz.html 


          Using Web utilities to examine these quizzes and the related set of YES and NO files will reveal the details of the strategy. I have only recently placed these quizzes on the Web page, and am about to announce their presence to the class. Whether the availability of these quizzes on the Web page will motivate weaker students to log in and to use electronic communication will be the subject of a future article. Meanwhile, they are available for general examination and might serve as models for more sophisticated programs.


03/16/96 to 03/20/96