A Change for the Better: Excelling with New Classroom & Homework Technology

Long-time chemical educator, Professor Mark Blaser, has adopted Aktiv Chemistry to foster better interactions in his flipped classroom and provide a seamless online homework platform for his students

Mark Blaser

Faculty, Department of Physical Sciences, Shasta College

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Adapting to new teaching methodologies

As new trends and theories on effective education surface, it has become imperative for educators to continually adapt their techniques and styles to best suit how students learn. Some instructors can be weary of change, however, many educators across the country continue to push the envelope for their students.

Mark Blaser is a chemistry professor at Shasta College, where he has taught for more than 20 years. A seasoned champion of student response systems and homework technology, he has benefitted from incorporating technology into his General Chemistry courses over time. In recent years, Mark has switched to a flipped classroom model in order to get the most out of his time in class with his students. Making this change led him to search for a more adaptive, multi-functional student response system.

“Having the potential for using Aktiv Chemistry in-class as a student response system and outside of class for a homework system as a benefit. It had always been one or the other for me, and I was having to patch stuff together.”¹
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Mark Blaser
Shasta College

Previously, Mark had to juggle multiple systems to fulfill his teaching needs for his General Chemistry course. However, Mark found that Aktiv Chemistry’s platform perfectly suited multiple needs for his flipped classroom. “Having the potential for using Aktiv Chemistry in-class as a student response system and outside of class for a homework system was a benefit. It had always been one or the other for me, and I was having to patch stuff together. We do stuff with this student learning management system, then this student response system, with this online homework system and merge all the pieces together.”¹

Automated feedback during class

One specific capability that Mark appreciates from Aktiv Chemistry is an extensive system of question-specific feedback that is provided for his students. Where once Mark was his students’ main source of feedback in-class, Aktiv Chemistry now assists him by providing feedback to the students after they answer a question incorrectly. “Because Aktiv Chemistry can provide feedback, there is a larger proportion of the time where the feedback I might have had to provide individually was happening due to Aktiv Chemistry itself. That provides some better student support that I would have had a hard time doing with eighty students at a time.”¹

“Because Aktiv Chemistry can provide feedback, there is a larger proportion of the time where the feedback I might have had to provide individually was happening due to Aktiv Chemistry itself. That provides some better student support that I would have had a hard time doing with eighty students at a time.”¹

Now, as his students work on assignments in his flipped class, Mark is able to walk around and observe discussions happening amongst them. Rather than spending all of his time, and his students’ time, correcting simple mistakes, Aktiv Chemistry provides that feedback for the students so that teacher-student conversations can move from minutiae to broader conceptual ideas. “The students can see how they’re progressing because they get feedback from the Aktiv Chemistry answers…They discuss with each other…and we all have a discussion afterward.”¹ Mark is now able to connect with his students and structure their time together in a more efficient way than in his previous decades of teaching.

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Aktiv Chemistry allows students to get instant and answer-specific feedback when they make mistakes – even during live class activities. This makes it perfect for replacing traditional worksheets and allowing students to work at their own pace on problems.

Don’t forget your clickers phones

Another major benefit Mark has enjoyed since adopting Aktiv Chemistry for his General Chemistry course is that Aktiv Chemistry is device agnostic and fully functional on smartphones. “[My students] don’t have to buy another device. Everyone brings their cell phone with them. They don’t forget it. A lot of people would forget to bring their clickers with them to class. Just having the screen with Aktiv Chemistry where you can move the electrons, move the bonds around, drop and drag the conversion factor pieces. There’s just so many options of things you can do with a mobile device.”¹

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Marks’ General Chemistry students work on an in-class activity that takes advantage of Aktiv Chemistry’s Lewis Structures module

Simple and visual

When Mark now teaches dimensional analysis and unit conversions to his students, Aktiv Chemistry provides a visual and scaffolded interface so students can see how these equations work before their very eyes. Since students can drag and drop the different factors of the problem and witness how units cancel out, the concepts of learning chemistry become less cerebral and more visual. “[With] a streamlined, simple to use interface, Aktiv Chemistry just makes the students quickly able to get into the actual learning activities rather than spending a whole bunch of time figuring out how to manipulate this or drag that.”¹

“[With] a streamlined, simple to use interface, Aktiv Chemistry just makes the students quickly able to get into the actual learning activities rather than spending a whole bunch of time figuring out how to manipulate this or drag that.”¹

20+ years at the head of the classroom have not made Mark complacent in his ways. He knows how to best communicate chemistry subject matter to his students and has done it with and without technology. And for his classroom, Mark continues to choose Aktiv Chemistry because it goes beyond what other typical student response systems and homework platforms can do. Aktiv Chemistry is not merely a tool to aid in collecting answers to assignments, it is a platform that can enhance chemistry education. “I can honestly say that everything that contributes to student engagement and provides students with good feedback is a benefit to their learning.”

Take Mark’s word for it.

¹ This page may contain direct quotes that were provided at a time where Aktiv Chemistry was named Chem101. We have replaced the name Chem101 with Aktiv Chemistry to minimize confusion.

About the Faculty

Mark Blaser is a faculty member and coordinator for the Department of Physical Sciences at Shasta College in Redding, California. In addition to teaching General Chemistry, his work for the department includes testing evidence-based teaching methods to improve student learning in chemistry.

Mark Blaser

Faculty, Department of Physical Sciences, Shasta College

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