Chemistry 101

Project Background

Chemistry 101- General Chemistry is a basic chemistry course for non-majors and focused on Nursing students who don’t require the higher degree of chemical and mathematics processing knowledge that other majors require.

Organizational/Curricular Goal

The goal for this instructional project was to create an version of CHE 101 – General Chemistry course which met the following needs:

  • Met departmental and institutional academic standards
  • Met the credit hour, accreditation, and regulatory standards for course work
  • Delivered in a format that made the content approachable to full-time working students with a sharp focus on applicable knowledge
  • Allowed those students to take the course from the home institution vs. seeking transfer-in credit from competing institutions thus maintaining the integrity and rigor of the program
  • Supported the institutional aim to create a fully online Bachelor of Science in Nursing program which is being demanded by the community partners and students which is directly connected to the college’s strategic plan for more and quality online offerings.

By comparison, the CHE 110 and 111 course sequence is for science, physical therapy, and physician assistant majors and requires in-depth chemical and mathematical calculation knowledge and was determined to be a barrier for nursing and non-science majors even with sections offered online.

Learner Analysis

The curricular and organizational goals for this project were such that the migration of content from the face-to-face delivery mode could be deemed appropriate if not for considering how these specialized learners approach their educational needs. When the analysis was complete, it was understood that a full revamp of content to fit a more micro-learning and sequential learning format that used examples from nursing settings and was highly engaging without taxing the students time above the accreditation and regulatory standards.

The analysis revealed the following items about the targeted student population:

  • Students worked 40+ hours per week often on rotating or extended shifts
  • Students would not have reliable or easily Internet access during work breaks or slowdowns in their jobs
  • Students were often older than traditionally-aged undergraduate students and many have familial responsibilities to their own nuclear or extended families
  • Students were returning for the Bachelor Degree to be eligible for promotion, advanced pay, and in some cases to remain employable with the changes to charter hospital regulations for patient care
  • Students often lacked technical skills which extended to quantitative reasoning, information literacy, and computing skills.
  • Students became disengaged or failed to complete earlier versions of the course citing irrelevant information or inconvenient attendance policies
  • Students needed multiple re-entry points to stop and restart their program without lengthy leaves of absence

The project was derived from two earlier successful projects moving Chemistry I and II online to accommodate the flexibility needs of students taking courses over the summer months. Students from previous online chemistry courses at the college showed improved test scores and reported that being able to review the video lectures while doing assignments were the primary reason for their success.

Course Features

This course feature several instructional features that grew from the student, faculty, and organizational needs determined in the brief analysis mentioned above.

  • Targeted reading assignments using assigned textbook, supplemental, and Internet information vs. blanket chapter readings
  • Reading was supplemented with in-house created micro-lecture videos covering critical and challenging topics or to ensure students understood the key points of the reading.
    • Videos were created using the Lightboard (see below) or selected from open and/or public videos vetted by the faculty member.
    • Selected supplemental videos from non-institution resources were included to offer a variety of accurate explanations
  • Micro-learning interactions made in-house using Articulate 360
  • Selected supporting resources to replace higher cost lab or content applications (e.g. Chem101App)
  • Contemporary issues, topics, and quips to help these non-chemistry majors relate more readily to the content (e.g., Chemistry in the News).
  • Discussion question forums that relied on student comprehension of the reading, lecture materials, supplemental resources and the math presented in each weekly module
  • Frequently Asked Questions discussion forum for general assistance or questions related to the content but not the assigned discussion question (e.g., Ask the Professor)
  • Publisher test banks to ensure consistency with content, fairness in question creation, and ease of use within the learning management system
  • Low-stakes periodic assessments to ensure comprehension and success prior to departmental assessments (required by the department to maintain consistent rigor and student success)
  • The course features 3 higher stakes examinations designed to meet disciplinary and departmental standards and offer a comparison in terms of student performance.

Instructional Samples

The media samples below were used with permission for this portfolio by the content owner. No unauthorized use or reproduction is permitted.


The General Chemistry course introduces students to a number of new topics and calculation models that are necessary for chemistry but not specific to nursing. The need to demonstrate these visually is critical to the student learning. While the textbook and workbook contain a number of examples, students learn better when able to interact visually with the information. After experimenting with screen-capturing on-screen calculations (common in Khan Academy videos), rigged document camera recordings on paper, the use of Lightboard videos was selected as the most engaging and approachable format for the instruction. These videos allowed for the faculty member to be visible while showing calculations and diagrams.  The lightboard model also uses a common technique for faculty members by allowing them to speak and write naturally at the same time while facing an audience (in this case the camera).

The micro-lecture below provides an overview and example density and specific gravity. Micro-lectures pinpoint areas of learning that are integral to the content, commonly challenging, or necessary for reference later in the course. This style of lecture is in contrast to more lengthy lectures commonly used in face-to-face classes that weave multiple topics together over a longer period of time.


Each micro-lecture was supported by selected readings, non-graded practice questions with feedback, and interactions around critical aspects of video or course that needed explanation but not video inclusion (e.g., Significant Figures). To assist students with better understanding these topics Articulate interactions were included to allow the user to engage with the materials repeatedly and recall the information at critical junctures in the class. Below is an example defining significant figures which was used in combination with course assignments and tests throughout. The full interaction is linked here.

CHE 101 Sig Fig Interaction
Used with permission

My Role

As a designer my role is manifold. I serve as a project manager and full service instructional designer throughout the design process and running of the course. To assist my recall, timeliness, and tracking for the project, I use a RACI model. The model allows for the assignment of high-level project milestones and tasks to stakeholders with various responsibilities areas for the task or milestone area. Typical stakeholders in the instructional design process include: the instructional designer, content expert (faculty member), and the department chairperson or director. The RACI matrix below outlines the roles and responsibilities of this Chemistry 101 – General Chemistry design project.

This document was used with permission and names removed for web publication.

At a more granular level I served in a number of unique functions throughout the process.

Instructional designer

  • Instructional analysis (alignment of learning objectives to assessment and instructional activities
  • Content organization, branding, and theming consistent with online course standards
  • Quality review and approval using institutionally accepted quality model (Quality Matters)
  • Redirections and redevelopment once course was deployed
  • Aiding the faculty member in understanding and incorporating feedback from students and peers.
  • Instructing on new technology, tools, and techniques.

Media production and post-production

  • Story-boarding and micro-lecture design
  • Interaction creation and editing (e.g. Articulate 360)
  • Video studio setup (Camera, lighting, and audio)
  • Video editing (e.g., Adobe PremierePro)
  • Media sharing and embedding

Technical support

  • On-call support for instructor
  • Designing in-course support for learners (e.g., Guides, videos, technical support, etc).