Changing Reactions Towards Organic Chemistry

Professor Patricia Calvo saw a dramatic improvement in student satisfaction after running in-class and homework problems with Aktiv’s intuitive and student-centered platform

Patricia Calvo

Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Nova Southeastern University


Pre-Aktiv, Calvo had little autonomy over course structure

Personalization and hands-on learning make a world of difference on student comprehension. This holds especially true in chemistry, where students must master drawing structures, nomenclature, and reaction mechanisms. Patricia Calvo, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Nova Southeastern University, teaches anywhere from 30–55 Organic Chemistry students per course section. The intimate nature of her class has made it important for Calvo to use class time as a way of shoring up knowledge gaps. Unfortunately, the teaching platform she was initially using couldn’t keep up.

For starters, it lacked customization capabilities. Calvo found that standard poll and discussion questions weren’t applicable to her curriculum. Nor could she edit existing material to reinforce certain concepts based on student understanding. “The questions available weren’t really relevant to what I was teaching. It’s a common thread I saw on my course evaluations: students loved my teaching but hated using the learning platform,” says Calvo.

She began a lengthy search for an engagement platform that would let students draw and visualize chemical concepts with ease. It’s what led her to adopt Aktiv Chemistry in Fall 2022 for her Organic Chemistry II course. She now uses Aktiv’s intuitive interface to run in-class and homework activities. The best part? She’s seen greater student satisfaction than ever before—all while eliminating hours spent fielding student complaints outside of class.

Helping students visualize concepts during lectures

AktivGrid: Arrow Drawing Mechanisms & Resonance

Calvo no longer has to manually draw out complex chemical structures or nomenclature on her whiteboard. Nor is she met with a sea of student emails requesting grade clarifications. Aktiv Chemistry lets students visualize and draw organic structures and mechanisms from their own devices and serves up targeted instructional feedback to help solidify challenging concepts. Ten percent of the final grade comes from Aktiv questions, which is further segmented by in-class questions (accounting for 25 percent) and homework assignments (accounting for the remaining 75 percent). She touts Aktiv’s ability to foster a flexible and supportive learning environment. For instance, she can now customize points based on correctness and participation, ensuring students still get rewarded for their efforts in class.

Calvo runs 95 percent of her Organic Chemistry lessons using Aktiv. She’s been determined to help students learn from their mistakes in a hands-on manner. It’s why she was drawn to the AktivGrid—the platform’s drawing system with chemical intelligence—to help students draw and manipulate structures and mechanisms from their own devices.

I love the AktivGrid. It allows students to draw structures, submit answers and it’s so unique because we can review all submissions anonymously to see where they went wrong. I can’t think of any other program that lets me do that. For organic chemistry, that’s crucial.
Patricia Calvo
Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Nova Southeastern University

Making students more receptive to hundreds of homework problems

AktivGrid: Organic Molecule Drawing Experience

The word ‘homework’ can elicit mixed reactions from students. But for Calvo, the response has been overwhelmingly positive since switching over to Aktiv. She assigns students anywhere from 50–100 practice questions per homework assignment, accessible directly from the Aktiv platform. Once again, Calvo’s level of customization—made possible through Aktiv—has only led to greater student satisfaction. “Students say they enjoy having five attempts per problem and not getting points deducted. That even reduced instances of cheating,” she says. 

Today, Calvo estimates her students spend anywhere from two-to-five hours completing their homework assignments. But even for a busy generation of learners, engagement continues to trend upwards. Aktiv’s intuitive interface is largely to thank. “If I can get students to complete an organic chemistry problem because it looks like a video game, then that works for me,” Calvo shares.

Turning disengaged students into Aktiv advocates

Fewer student complaints. Greater satisfaction with the overall learning experience. Calvo has noticed a remarkable improvement in student outcomes since adopting Aktiv. On her final exam, Calvo asks students to reflect on the extent to which they enjoyed using Aktiv in class. The response? Students now can’t imagine her class—or any chemistry class—without the interactive platform. “They say the content is more relevant to what I’m teaching and that’s a reflection of the high-quality questions available. Every single student has recommended I use Aktiv in future semesters,” she says.

About the Faculty

Dr. Patricia Calvo received her B.Sc in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry from Lindenwood University in Missouri. Dr. Calvo obtained her doctoral degree in Organic Chemistry from the University of Florida. After teaching as a Chemistry Lecturer at Texas A&M University, San Antonio for a year, Dr. Calvo accepted her current position as Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Nova Southeastern University. Her research focuses on creating novel polymeric materials for applications, such as drug delivery and water purification. Dr. Calvo is actively involved with the American Chemical Society (ACS) and hopes to share her passion for chemistry with her students.

Patricia Calvo

Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Nova Southeastern University

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