Chemistry practical work is integral to chemistry education. Laboratory sessions make chemical equations come alive, allowing students to see, and sometimes smell, taste or feel, the outcomes of these interactions.

Current technology cannot replicate this learning experience. However, online courseware can facilitate the conduct of practicals.

Dr Adrian Michael Lee, from the Department of Chemistry, noticed that chemistry students were generally unprepared for laboratory sessions. Students were not familiar with the techniques used as well as the skills the chemistry involved. Moreover, most depend entirely on the laboratory briefing instead of reading the practical sheet.

Having seen how Bristol University used an online solution to tackle similar problems, Dr Lee approached CIT to create online courseware which would make laboratory preparation interesting, interactive and thorough.

With Dr Lee’s input, CIT developed the Interactive Chemistry Laboratory Manual (ICLM), online courseware which provides students all the information and instructional resources to perform laboratory experiments. Dr Lee, the subject-matter expert, provided content. CIT designed the courseware, filmed the videos, took the photos and created various interactive elements.

Since the start of AY 2008/09, ICLM has been available online for chemistry students taking certain modules. Students can visit the site before the laboratory session to run through everything that they need to know about the experiment.

As laboratory time is precious, ICLM allows students to familiarize themselves with the experiments before the practical classes. ICLM covers all aspects of the experiments, from safety to preparation, from conducting to report-writing. Instructions, relevant information, data sheets and other materials cover the experiment before, during and after the laboratory session.

The materials are presented in different formats: video clips of laboratory techniques, simulations, virtual instruments, interactive materials, formative and summative tests on material and pre-laboratory safety assessments have all been combined to form a guide that chemistry students can use with ease.

With ICLM, students have one less excuse for not being prepared for chemistry practicals.

eLearning Week blog

The first eLearning Week (eLW) in NUS took place in late February at the Communications & New Media Programme, with the support of the Office of Safety, Health and Environment.

CIT’s objectives for the week were to prepare, monitor and test the readiness and ability of our students, staff and systems to cope with an emergency situation where on-campus teaching facilities are unavailable.

To those ends, we facilitated various means of conducting lectures and tutorials online. These included:
• Breeze (Online presentations – slides plus audio)
• Centra (Virtual Classroom)
• Comprehensive use of IVLE, particularly the Chat and Forums
• Podcast lecture
• Instant messaging

Overall, the exercise was successful in meeting its objectives. eLW provided CIT with several learning points, the most important of which are highlighted below:

1. Tool to fit the lecturer
It was vital to allow lecturers to choose tools that they were comfortable with. Early training sessions enabled lecturers to match their perceived level of technological competence to the complexity of the various tools.

While this resulted in a number of lecturers opting not to use Centra after expressing initial interest, the situation could arguably have been worse if lecturers felt tied-in to using tools with steep learning curves.

Recommendations: Continue with tool preview sessions for staff before semester begins, closer collaboration with lecturers to determine their needs.

2. Early preparation vital
Regardless of the tools used, early preparation was of paramount importance. This could be seen from the experiences of various lecturers, particularly several who used Breeze. Partly due to the fact that CIT promotes Breeze as a rapid eLearning content creation tool, several lecturers started preparing their Breeze presentations just prior to eLW. A number experienced technical difficulties, which delayed the publication of their respective lectures online.

Recommendations: Those liaising with lecturers have to provide reminders about preparing early regardless of the tool being used.

3. Expectations need to be managed
From the lecturers’ feedback, it is apparent CIT should have managed lecturers’ expectations in a more comprehensive manner.

Recommendations: The following points need to be reinforced – (1) the eLW scenario involving a limited/full campus quarantine, (2) that quality of lessons/communication will most likely be affected, (3) the relative lack of non-verbal cues for most of the tools, (4) the fact that real-life factors will still come into play for online learning (e.g. students can be late for online learning just as they can be for a class on campus), (5) the technology may fail or be problematic for various reasons (which CIT will do its best to resolve if those situations arise).

4. Student Feedback
There is a lack of student feedback that can be analyzed. This is due, in part, to the lack of a proper feedback mechanism and the simplicity of the questions.

Recommendations: Work with the lecturers to find out what kind of feedback they would like to have. Feedback also has to be garnered from students after each lecturer and tutorial. The liaison should work with their respective lecturers to integrate feedback gathering into their lecture/tutorial. This should also be settled early so that it can be worked into various lectures and tutorials.

One of CIT's key services is the development of courseware for faculty staff. Courseware ranges from simple course websites to self-sufficient courses such as the Academic Culture eModule. We have highlighted three courseware projects below to give you some idea of the learning that courseware enables. Please contact Mr if you are interested in engaging our services to create courseware for your students.


e-daf is an overarching German language courseware for various modules.

It consists of grammar notes, interactive web-based exercises, learning strategies, access to related online forums and chat rooms in IVLE, links to German-related resources, project showcases of students' past work, web-accessible audio-visual materials, downloadable audio podcast lessons and a searchable archive of previous years' notes and exercises.

e-daf is continually being expanded to keep content fresh and exciting for students.

Interactive Radiology Training Programme

Interactive Radiology helps to build medical students' skills in using imaging to solve clinical problems.

This comprehensive self-paced courseware was designed to develop students' confidence in x-ray interpretation and to develop their skills in selecting an appropriate and cost-effective test to solve a variety of clinical problems. It caters to both undergraduates and postgraduates who study diagnostic radiology.

Each module within the programme consists of specific learning objectives, clear instruction, illustrated examples, interactive case studies and web references. Students can study and measure progress in diagnostic radiology subjects at their own pace.

Access it here: http://courseware.nus.edu.sg/radiology/

Mathematics II (MA1506)

The MA1506 Mathematics II courseware is a comprehensive course website which ties in to IVLE and provides direct links to library resources. The site covers every aspect of the module, providing one-stop access to all the module's resources.

More courseware examples can be found at the CIT website.

Safety in chemical plants is paramount. Disasters such as Flixborough and Bhopal could have been prevented if Process Safety Measurement regulations were put in place and adhered to by the plants’ staff. Part of the process involves identifying hazards and eliminating them or better yet, preventing these hazards from occurring.

It is with these in mind that Safe Furnace was developed. This courseware, targeted at undergraduate and postgraduate Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering students, aims to simulate the process of identifying hazards, evaluating them and performing a risk assessment.

The web-based Safe Furnace courseware allows groups of students to identify various factors which may contribute to hazards in a chemical plant, part of the Hazard & Operability (HAZOP) analysis. The students can view the Process Description & Flow Diagram, Incident Reports and Materials Safety Data Sheets to help them in their decision making. In order to facilitate this, each potential hazard can be discussed within a group in an attached forum. From the discussions, the students will come up with a report on the resulting checklist and HAZOP study.