Laboratory courses are well known and feared for their complex, intimidating learning environments. Students at the introductory level often report a sense of intimidation and confusion when attempting to build complicated apparatus for the first time. This project seeks to create a self-paced lab preparation exercise using affordable, accessible software and computing tools. Students will be able to construct an organic chemistry apparatus in a guided, controlled, virtual environment prior to entering the lab to attempt the actual lab exercise. The goals are to increase student confidence and efficiency during lab time, resulting in few broken glass tubes, fewer student tears, and additional lab time for instruction in other aspects of the practice of science.
PI Ronald Davis, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Chemistry department, was inspired by his work with the ITEL tablet cohort in the spring of 2016. Through this funded project, PI Ronald Davis developed a prototype virtual lab build during his participation in the ITEL Tablet Cohort in the spring of 2015. Davis hopes to improve the tablet-based prototype, as well as construct a life-size version of the build using a large touch screen, which he hopes might further enhance the cognitive connection students develop between the virtual preparation and the practical laboratory work. Students who used the tablet prototype reported improved confidence and were able to build their apparatus to a similar level of quality to their peers, but in significantly less time. All of this was accomplished using Articulate Storyline 2, a simple presentation building application with intuitive PowerPoint-style controls.