During my summer course, I began to integrate ChemDraw for iPad into my undergraduate organic chemistry lecture. There was an obvious increase in classroom participation and engagement with the material as a result. I will show the types of problems students worked on in class and model how Flick-to-Share works to exchange information. Successes and difficulties in integrating ChemDraw for iPad into the course will be discussed as well as how some difficulties have been addressed and future development needs.
Using ChemDraw for iPad and Flick-to-Share to Increase Engagement in Organic Chemistry
My organic course, teaching from iPad
I began teaching from an iPad during Fall semester 2012 for my organic chemistry 1 course. I wrote on the iPad similarly to using the whiteboards while using Airserver to connect to the computer in the room and projecting onto a screen so the class could follow along. I use Camtasia Relay to record the screen and a room microphone to record what I am saying as well as any class discussion. These lectures are then posted on Blackboard for students to watch back while studying.
Drawing and Flick
ChemDraw for iPad can be used to draw nearly all chemical interactions I use in organic chemistry, from reactions and mechanisms, to stereochemistry via wedges, sawhorses, Newman projections, Fischer projections and Haworth projections as well as molecular orbitals. Flick-to-Share can be used to send any of these drawings in real time to other users that have been added as contacts. It can also be used to share with a group of contacts at once, where one flick can send the material to a number of users, which is ideal for in-class use.
During spring of 2013, I was contacted by McGraw-Hill Education about pilot testing the new ChemDraw for iPad that would be released by PerkinElmer during the summer of 2013. I was immediately interested in finding ways to help our students become more familiar with ChemDraw as I felt it was being under-used on our campus. PerkinElmer lent 25 iPads for my summer organic chemistry students to be able to take with them for the entire course. This allowed them to work on ChemDraw for iPad outside of class time and become more familiar with using the app.
As I prepared to use ChemDraw in class, I considered what it could be used for. In addition to the students becoming more familiar with ChemDraw, I immediately saw the value in the imbedded Flick-to-Share functionality. This allows people to easily exchange their drawings with others by simply flicking the drawing to another user’s ID. During most class periods, I used this to flick a problem out to the students and have them flick their answers back to me. Since I began teaching from the iPad, I have been walking around the room while I am teaching, and I noticed that when I give students a problem to work on during class that 1/3 to ½ of the class did not attempt the problem, but simply waited until I later solved the problem to write anything down. To me, this defeated the pedagogical purpose of giving in-class problems, which is to help students determine if they understand how to apply the concepts we are discussing. If students attempt to solve a problem and get it right, it shows they have a good understanding, while if they try and get it wrong, it shows they need to spend more time studying the material outside of class. If they wait for me to solve the problem they have missed this opportunity to self-assess. By using ChemDraw and Flick-to-Share, I was able to get all the students in class to engage with the problem-solving by giving daily points for sending me answers via Flick. I felt it was important not to penalize students for giving wrong answers, as I believed that engaging with the problems would encourage self-assessment, therefore I gave students points whether their answers were correct or not.
Fig. 1 An example of an in-class problem. The black drawings were flicked to the class, the red is an example student response.
There are many types of problems that I have been able to use ChemDraw for iPad to have students solve during class including:
One unexpected outcome I found while walking around the room as students worked on their problems was that I could quickly identify mistakes being made in mechanisms and structures. I attribute this to the more standardized nature of drawing with ChemDraw than drawing by hand. This has led to being able to correct these mistakes as they are happening during class.
Fig. 2 A common error drawing E2 reactions without having the base remove the proton alpha to the leaving halogen: ChemDraw for iPad allowed me to quickly show why this mechanism pathway is not possible.
I also experimented with using ChemDraw on two exams during the summer. I flicked partial reactions to the students and asked them to answer the problems and flick the responses to me. I required them to complete this part of the exams before handing out the paper portion as ChemDraw could be used to answer some of the other exam questions (such as configuration of stereocenters, as stereochemical labeling can be turned on or off on each user’s ChemDraw app). This worked well for the early exams before the students were told that it was possible for them to flick to each other (at the time, they only knew they could flick to me as the instructor). I did not have the students use the app on the final exam for this reason.
Fig. 3 Average student responses to questions relating to their use of ChemDraw for iPad during summer courses at UIS and SLU. The scores were on a 7 point Likert scale with 1=low and 7=high, SLU n=21, UIS n=7.
PerkinElmer sent a user interface and usability expert, Jennifer McCormick from User Experience, to run a focus group with the students from my summer class. She used a combination of survey and interviews to assess student attitudes toward the use of ChemDraw for iPad. McGraw-Hill Education sent Patrick Diller to do the same, but to assess the educational aspects of using the app in class. The feedback from these two sessions was very important in increasing the usability of ChemDraw for iPad in the classroom. The low score for ease of sharing structures at UIS had two easily identifiable reasons. First, group flicks were not yet possible, which meant that I had to flick everything individually to each student in class. This functionality was added to Flick-to-Share in a subsequent update. This low sharing score also helped us to identify that the students wanted to use the app outside of class while studying with each other and wished they could flick drawings to one another. After learning this, I immediately told the students that they could flick to each other and showed them how to do so. In hindsight, I feel that students use of their iPads while studying is much more valuable than using it on exams (which is the reason I had not told them they could flick to one another). The comments relating to ease of drawing structures showed that many students (as well as the instructors, though we were not included in the survey data) desired a text tool that would allow for labeling of items on the drawings. This was also subsequently added to ChemDraw for iPad along with chair, Newman and Fischer structure templates all of which have expanded the usability of the app. Many of the comments relating to overall satisfaction or perceived usefulness related to the awkwardness of switching between writing notes on paper and using the iPad for problem solving.
The main element that would improve the classroom usefulness of ChemDraw for iPad would be a way to integrate with some type of class response program. This would allow for immediate analysis of responses which would aid instructors in identifying and correcting misconceptions during class.
ChemDraw for iPad has been used to increase engagement during organic chemistry lectures by utilizing Flick-to-Share to send out problems and receive answers from the students. There have been several improvements in the usability of ChemDraw for iPad since the summer pilot that make it more versatile and have fixed some of the main issues students experienced. I am continuing to use it with a larger class and will again survey this class to determine how the improvements will affect student attitudes and engagement.
This work has been supported by PerkinElmer with special recognition to Hans Keil and Phil McHale for their oversight of the pilot studies. Patrick Diller at McGraw-Hill Education for insight into pedagogical developments relating ChemDraw for iPad to teaching and survey data. Jennifer McCormick from User Experience for survey creation and implementation. Dr. Michael Lewis of Saint Louis University who also participated in the pilot study with his 2013 summer organic chemistry course.