Higher education is often known for its rigorous standards and expectations of excellence. The tools used by instructors should meet the same bar. Lenny Vuocolo, an Associate Teaching Professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Chemistry department, understands the necessity for good technology in the classroom. “I think we’re at a stage where eliminating technology and these tools from the classroom is losing an opportunity that could be a good way for [students] to enhance their skills. It’s a must.” But finding the right tool to take advantage of that opportunity can sometimes be a struggle. For Lenny, the choice of which technology to incorporate in his Modern Chemistry course has been easy. In fact, the choice has been consistent for four years now. Lenny chooses Aktiv Chemistry.
Aktiv Chemistry’s database of questions gives Lenny the ability to create assignments specifically geared toward his unique curriculum and syllabus. This extensive bank includes standard questions in addition to more difficult ones for instructors who wish to create more challenging problem sets. As an educator that focuses on depth, rather than breadth, of material, Lenny needed a platform that would allow him to dig deeper into particular chemistry concepts and not just skim the surface. “We really try to increase the use of these problems to help students master concepts and to understand better how to prepare well for exams – how to piece material together. So, we really make sure to try to give activities in-class to help them better master the concepts in the course and synthesize and put the information together.”
Bring your own content
Instructors that use Aktiv Chemistry benefit from the provided question bank but can also add their own content. The platform offers the capability for instructors to author their own questions, even providing a Smart Suggestion keyboard with superscripts, subscripts, symbols, and arrows to streamline the formatting of the authored questions with chemistry-specific items. For professors like Lenny who have question sets they’ve spent years developing, this feature can be a huge relief. “I loved that I could still use some of my own questions. I had some very key questions and we do cover some topics in very specific depth that wouldn’t be for the typical General Chemistry course. That interface and that ability to do that is so simple.”
Less time, more learning
However, for Lenny, the ability to extract data on student performance from Aktiv Chemistry is a game-changing feature. “The ability to just extract your data and the grades, I really like that you have a percent completion grade, you have percent correct grade. You can get quite a bit of information and data very quickly and easily. I really appreciate that.”
For Lenny and his students, the personalized and efficient customer service they receive from Aktiv Chemistry’s staff is unmatched. “The fact that we can communicate directly with [Aktiv Chemistry] is amazing. That you don’t have some unknown or not committed staff that bigger companies have, I think that is key because I’ve run into problems with bigger companies. The customer service that [Aktiv Chemistry] provides is amazing. There is easy support if you do have a glitch or you don’t know what you’re doing.”¹ When the stakes are high, it is useful to have a company on your side to get you up and running as quickly as possible.
Above all else, Lenny highlights Aktiv Chemistry’s ease of use. With so many other hassles of administering courses, Aktiv Chemistry users don’t have to worry about a learning curve. “There’s not a lot of hurdles to overcome when using Aktiv Chemistry. It’s not clouded by a lot of other things. Other software platforms can be too complicated.”¹ All instructors and students deserve to work with technology that is intuitive, encourages growth, and supports its users. Aktiv Chemistry is proud to be there for Lenny and the faculty that use the platform at hundreds of colleges and universities