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2007 Spring ConfChem: International Conference on First-Year College Chemistry

01/29/07 to 03/11/07
Professor Paul Kelter Department of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL 61801


This online conference will feature papers and discussion about various aspects of first-year undergraduate chemistry as taught in countries all over the world. Among the featured presenters will be ICUC members Gabriel Pinto (Spain), Supriya Sihi (Houston, Texas), and Jill Robinson, (Indiana University). Others are welcome to submit a paper, particularly those from outside the U.S.A.


Gabriel Pinto, Grupo de Innovación Educativa de Didáctica de la Química, ETS de Ingenieros Industriales (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid).

Paper 2. Less is More: The 1:2:1 Curriculum at Indiana University
Jill K. Robinson (, Kate Reck, Martha G. Oakley, Indiana University, Department of Chemistry, 800 E. Kirkwood, Bloomington, IN 47401

Paper 3. First experiences teaching General, Organic, Biological (GOB) Chemistry lecture on-line.
James F. Kirby, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT 06518.

Adela Castillejos Salazar. Facultad de Química. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Paper 5. First Year Chemistry in two countries oceans apart: United States of America and India
Supriya Sihi, Chemistry, Houston Community College, Houston, Texas, USA

Paper 6. BestChoice, an interactive learning system: Supporting learning in large classes
Sheila Woodgate and David Titheridge
The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Conference Articles

Abstracts of Papers:

Jill K. Robinson (, Kate Reck, Martha G. Oakley
Indiana University, Department of Chemistry, 800 E. Kirkwood, Bloomington, IN 47401


James F. Kirby
Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT, USA 06518


In the fall of 2005, an opportunity presented itself: QU Online , Quinnipiac University's organization for on-line education, had an outside volunteer who was interested in preparing a course for our CH 101-102 sequence: the General, Organic, Biological Chemistry sequence, historically referred to as "Nursing Chem" at US institutions. Since I had the idea of preparing a course of this nature in the back of my mind, and it was suddenly thrust into the forefront.

In this paper, I will discuss how my plans for organization merged with QU Online's plans for course organization, giving you a sense of:

  1. what I mean by a media rich on-line course;
  2. differences instructing on-line versus in a classroom (on-site);
  3. differences in quantitative and qualitative instruction.

Along the way, I will discuss some troubles faced in my first attempt, and ways that I plan to change my course for my second attempt.

Adela Castillejos Salazar
as translated by Paul Kelter
Facultad de Química. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.


In this paper I will talk about a book that I hope will be of interest to many of you, no matter what your native language; a Chemistry book we are about to publish for high-school students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). This book is part of a collection entitled “Fundamental Knowledge,” which is being developed by Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Philosophy, Geography, Grammar/Literature, and History professors to be used by students at the UNAM high-school system, where these subjects are mandatory. With this collection, we want to think about, and have our students understand, the scientific contents of the 21 st Century and the accelerated rate of change in knowledge within the last few decades.

Supriya Sihi

Department of Chemistry Houston Community College Houston, Texas, USA


Chemistry is the central science that provides important understanding of our world and how it works. With its countless contributions in our daily lives, it is an important area to focus in this era of science and technology. It is a discipline that develops around and reflects social, economic, and technological changes. First- year chemistry serves as the introduction to knowledge, techniques and scientific critical thinking skills for students pursuing careers in chemistry related fields.

Technology has made it a very small world. In today's world, chemistry is a global enterprise drawing from international expertise to address and solve industrial, environmental, and health problems with far- reaching consequences. Students of chemistry in this fast changing world, must be exposed to and be aware of the global framework of science. First- year chemistry curriculum is of vital importance in this preparation process. Educators in the business of this entry level chemistry face tough challenges in the years to come in order to maintain competitiveness among the talented students worldwide.

United States of America and India, two countries oceans apart, are two major players in the advancement of science and technology. United States of America, with a wide array of public and private institutions, is still one of best in the world in higher education. Faculty rosters at various American universities are studded with so many Noble Prize winning chemists. Convergence of technology has allowed India and China, world's two biggest nations a huge stake in the success of globalization. In Asia, they are the leaders in the scientific world. In a recent documentary, British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) describes India as the “emerging Asian tiger” exporting science and technology all over the world. A large English speaking population helps India to be an active and major partner in the scientific community. The education system in India must be conducive to creating science literate workforce for the country.

Exchange of ideas between educators around the world often helps to develop best teaching practices. International collaborations bring together chemists from diverse academic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. A close look at the similarities and differences in chemical education in these two countries may help academic institutions decide what to adopt and what to avoid in a first- year chemistry classroom. This comparison may help educators develop a curriculum satisfying socio-economic need of the community in accordance with resources available.

I have been teaching first year or freshman level of chemistry at Houston Community College for the past eighteen years. It has been an exciting and challenging journey for me. Houston Community College System (HCCS) is the second largest singularly accredited community college in US with an enrollment over 50,000 students. HCCS is a multi-campus institution providing educational opportunities in and around this large Texas city of over 2 million people. With an open admission policy, HCCS is noteworthy for the diverse nature of its student population with a significant number of international students. All our chemistry courses have transfer credits to major four-year institutions. Prior to joining HCCS, I gathered a different perspective towards first- year chemistry as a graduate teaching assistant in the U.S. at a large public institution as well as at a private institution with a fairly small student population.

My encounter with chemical education in India was as an undergraduate student majoring in chemistry at an Indian university recognized for its excellence in training and path breaking research in science, engineering, and arts. It is located in Calcutta, which had been the capital of British India for a long time. The university has been declared as the Center of Excellence by the University Grant Commission (UGC) of India and has been rated with a five star status by the National Assessment and Accreditation Committee of India.

It is common knowledge that instructional methods and curricula vary from one institution to other in different parts of the same country. From my first hand experience in first-year chemistry in both countries, following is a list of contributing factors shaping chemical education in these two systems. This is entirely from my knowledge and observations, as a chemistry faculty as well as student. This is open to discussions, recommendations, and additions from others experienced in the field.

Sheila Woodgate and David Titheridge
The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand


BestChoice is an open-access interactive web site ( that was developed initially to support learning in large first year university Chemistry classes at The University of Auckland. The BestChoice project has focused on exploring use of the web as a means of delivering scaffolded learning activities. More recently BestChoice has been expanded to provide learning opportunities for a wider ranger of users.

The model underpinning BestChoice learning activities is simulation of the interchange of a student with an experienced teacher. Thus student responses on BestChoice question pages generate instant assessment and instructive feedback. BestChoice is innovative in its emphasis on teaching both concepts and problem-solving strategies by guiding students in ways that promote their understanding.