posted July 30, 2013

NSF Grant Supports Involvement in Developing Online Chemistry Texts

A grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is supporting Hope College’s involvement in developing high-quality, online chemistry textbooks that are being made available at no cost to educators around the world.

Dr. Brent Krueger, associate professor of chemistry, is among faculty members at five institutions to have received NSF support for developing materials for “ChemWiki.”  Designed for post-secondary chemistry courses, “ChemWiki” is a series that includes analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, physical and theoretical chemistry, as well as the history of chemistry and laboratory techniques.

The initiative is led by Dr. Delmar S. Larsen of the University of California, Davis.  In addition to UC-Davis and Hope, the other colleges and universities to have received NSF support to develop materials are Contra Costa College, Sonoma State University and the University of Minnesota, Morris.

Krueger has been involved with the project since the fall of 2009, and has used portions of “ChemWiki” in his own classes in addition to coordinating additions developed by Hope chemistry students.  He appreciates the way that the initiative blends the best of traditional textbooks and the digital age.

“This is a vetted, quality resource, just like a traditional paper textbook,” he said.  “But because it’s electronic, the advantage it has over a traditional textbook is that you can customize it for your course.”

As a free resource, he noted, “ChemWiki” also serves especially well as an option for programs for which requiring printed textbooks would be prohibitively expensive.

“ChemWiki” thus far includes more than 6,000 pages.  Available through collegeopentextbooks.org, “ChemWiki” is visited more than 18 million times a year.

The $27,542, two-year grant awarded to Krueger will provide support as Hope students develop materials for the project based on their experience in courses including General Chemistry this fall and Quantum Mechanics in the spring.

Krueger noted that there’s an advantage in having students generate materials, since they can often present the information in a user-friendly way for their peers.  At the same time, he said, multiple levels of review before material is posted help assure that it is scientifically and pedagogically sound.

An additional, significant benefit at Hope, he said, is that the students who are developing the materials as a teaching resource learn the information much more deeply.

“Trying to teach that material is a fantastic way to learn it,” Krueger said.  “I see it as an opportunity to help students study better and along the way generate material that will be helpful to future students as well.”