Learning Shorts: Understanding Universal Design

Exploring Chemistry Online

Ronia Kattoum joined the Chemistry Department in February of 2014 as a full time instructor.  After hearing about the innovative things she was doing with technology we asked her to share her experience with us.

“In addition to integrating Smartboard technology in our face to face sections in the chemistry department, one of my other projects was to design our first online chemistry course, CHEM 1300 (Preparation for General Chemistry), a course for students who have not had previous chemistry experience and who desired to advance to General Chemistry.

CHEM 1300 graphicAs you may imagine, chemistry as a daunting subject for students to study face to face, let alone online. And the task of designing the course is yet even more daunting for an instructor.

The sciences require a level of interaction between the instructor and the student that is difficult to translate into the online environment. That is, difficult before the age of smart technologies.

With my tablet, I am able to pull up my Powerpoint slides and annotate them as a I lecture like I would in a face to face setting. This allows me to do many example problems following the “show me, don’t tell me” pedagogical principle that is often needed in the sciences. My PowerPoint slides give the background information, but students have to watch my videos in order to complete “examples” slides.

I do this because I believe students learn better through visual and auditory stimulation like they would in a traditional classroom. But the best part is that these short lecture segments (5-20 minutes) are recorded and posted on Blackboard for students to view as often as they would need or desire. Then, each lesson has a short 5-10 question quiz to assess their knowledge of the material presented in the lesson. The lesson quizzes are due M/W/F to mirror the structure of the traditional classroom.

The due dates are set by midnight to give non-traditional students flexibility that is not available in face to face section. However, this still provides enough structure to prevent students from falling behind, which can easily happen in an online environment.

I honestly don’t think that I could have created a legitimate online chemistry course without the use of smart technologies. Essentially, I believe that we are heading towards a paperless classroom in which all you need to bring to class is a tablet. Not only are we saving trees (and our backs), but we are providing interactive and enriching environments for our next generation of beautiful minds.”

Ronia Kattoum, Chemistry Instructor

Understanding Universal Design for Learning is part of a semester-long Learning Shorts series on Accessibility and Universal Design in conjunction with the Department of Educational Leadership, the Disability Resource Center, and Scholarly Technology and Resources (STaR).

Posted in: Blackboard News, Featured, Instructional Design, Learning Shorts

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