The frustrations of clickers
For many large-lecture chemistry courses, clicker-style student response systems have been a staple for many years. These systems provide a way to collect answers to multiple-choice questions while students are in the classroom. However, for some instructors, these exceedingly limited pieces of technology have provided more headaches than they are worth.
Mallory Mentele, a chemistry professor and curriculum specialist at Colorado State University, had experienced her fair share of headaches from using clickers. “I was having a lot of problems with the clicker system. With 500 students per semester, there’d always be at least twenty that it took almost half a semester for the clickers to actually be syncing. It was a headache, so I was open to trying something different.” For Mallory, that new platform was Aktiv Chemistry.
Going beyond multiple choice
Aktiv Chemistry not only allows Mallory to collect student responses to multiple-choice questions, but also affords her numerous other features for her lectures. For example, she is able to use more types of activities and questions in her Introductory and General Chemistry courses. Aktiv Chemistry’s platform provides modules for drawing Lewis structures, working through dimensional analysis equations, writing chemical names and equations, and constructing ICE charts. “Before Aktiv Chemistry, they’d be drawing Lewis structures on paper. But with the way they’re able to interact with the app, they found it fun! They woke up and came alive. They caught on to Lewis Structures faster because they had this fun tool, almost like a game, for building Lewis structures rather than just sitting and watching me do it.”¹
Actionable class insights
With Aktiv Chemistry, Mallory is also able to monitor her students as they solve problems in class. The platform allows instructors to view histograms for each question asked so they can know the percentage of students who answer correctly and also see the top three mistakes made by the class. “They’ll be working on a problem and I can see certain incorrect answers coming up and I know that means, say, they forgot to convert to moles. So, then I can, while they’re working, make an announcement: ‘Did you forget to convert to moles first?’ I can work with them since I can see what they’re doing even though it’s 250 students.”
Beyond just the collection of data from in-class activities, Aktiv Chemistry has enabled Mallory to jumpstart student comprehension and see greater results. “An aspect of Aktiv Chemistry that is helping a lot is the dimensional analysis tool where they have to place the units into certain boxes. My first exam scores are higher, which covers dimensional analysis. That’s usually the problem area for freshmen or new students to chemistry, so that has improved with Aktiv Chemistry.”¹
Learning doesn’t stop in the classroom
Aktiv Chemistry is also designed to be as useful outside of the classroom as it is in-class. Instructors can build practice activities for their students using Aktiv Chemistry’s well-curated question bank to help them prepare for quizzes and exams, or increase their proficiency in specific chemistry concepts. Practice activities on Aktiv Chemistry have become an essential component of Mallory’s course. Her students had such a positive response to the platform that they asked her to provide more opportunities for them to use Aktiv Chemistry beyond graded assessments. “They said the most helpful tool for them was the practice assignments on Aktiv Chemistry. That was really encouraging!”¹ Now, practice activities are a regular, and appreciated, feature for Mallory’s students.
Above all else, Mallory is grateful that adopting Aktiv Chemistry does not require additional devices that her students have to lug around. In the past, her students were accidentally leaving their small clicker devices at home, but now the entire Aktiv Chemistry platform is always on hand. “As long as somebody has a smartphone or laptop or tablet, they’re able to access it. You always have students that are forgetting their clickers. For whatever reason, nobody ever seems to forget their cell phone. I’ve never had that.”
Aktiv Chemistry has benefited Mallory’s classroom for the past few years. In addition, it has also played a key role in her transition to distance teaching due to the COVID-19 shutdown. “In this time when everybody is all over the world, all over the country, even with internet not being great, Aktiv Chemistry is the only part of my course that there hasn’t been some issue with someone accessing it. That’s always important, but that’s been especially important lately. Having flexible and intuitive educational technology will never go out of style. No matter what gets thrown at educators, Aktiv Chemistry has the capability to continue working for, and with, its faculty and students.”¹