Providing a Roadmap for Remote Learning in an Introductory Chemistry Course

Featured Faculty:

Christopher B. DurrChris Durr





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Richmond Ampiah-Bonney





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Stephen Cartier

In Spring 2020, we taught Chemical Principles (CHEM 161). You can view the original syllabus below. When we learned that we were shifting to remote teaching in the middle of the semester, we met with our students and presented them with a plan for the rest of the semester (attached below as well). In this resource, we provided students with a color-coded guide of each aspect of the course (lecture, lab, discussion, homework, and office hours), how the information would be presented to them in our new, remote context, and how they could successfully complete each aspect of the course. It was clear from conversations with students that they were experiencing a high cognitive load from all of the changes and uncertainties associated with moving to remote. Recognizing that so much of online learning is unfamiliar to students, and therefore more complicated for them to navigate, we wanted to provide them with a clear roadmap for how to be successful in the course.

To continue the process of trying to provide clear guidance for students about how to be successful in CHEM 161 for the rest of the semester, we provided students with the following: 

  1. A 6-7 minute podcast, titled “The Weekly,” released each Monday. The podcast that provided an overview of our plan for the week (i.e., what would be happening in lecture, lab, and discussion). In the podcast, Chris also described a Chemist of the Week, focusing on chemists from underrepresented backgrounds who have made significant contributions to the field of Chemistry. (Listen to a sample podcast or read the transcript below).
  2. A weekly, color-coded checklist, titled “What’s Due,” that we created as a clickable .pdf so that students could clearly access a one-stop shop to understand what was due, when it was due, and how they should submit or complete the work. (View an example "What's Due” from Week 13 of the class, below)
  3. After each lecture, which students viewed as asynchronous videoes (you can watch three examples at the bottom of the page) students completed a one-minute paper using Google Forms. You can see an example of the One-Minute paper in the Additional Course Materials section of this page. This form asked students to identify what was helpful to their understanding and what they were wondering or had questions about. The GoogleForms were set up so that students immediately received a Read Receipt, so that they had a copy of their own reflections about the course and they knew that we had received this information. We then immediately followed up on the information that we received from these forms at the start of the next lecture.

cover image from recorded lecture powerpoint


Students responded very positively to the explicit, clear structure that we provided in this course, especially after the shift to remote learning. On the end-of-course evaluations, one student said, “Prof. Durr made the transition to online learning a breeze. The last day of class before we left campus he dedicated the class to showing us through a powerpoint of what would be done for the class and that they were prepared and organized… this made the stress about the transition to online learning a lot less because you felt like your professor had it together even if you didn’t.” Another student wrote about the shift to remote in CHEM 161, “As soon as we found out, they (the CHEM 161 professors) came up with an immediate plan, which was huge for helping us feel more confident for what’s to come. Even better, they did not feel concretely held to the plan; adjustments were made to refine it and listen to student feedback… I really appreciate all the work that was put into maintaining the quality of lecture and the sense of community!”

Snapshot of Additional Course Materials



Asynchronous Videos

screenshot "Organic Primer: Your First Organic Reaction" line drawing of man at lab table

Organic Primer - Skeletal Structures

Organic Primer - Organic Acids and Bases

Organic Primer - Your First Organic Reaction


One-minute Paper


screenshot of Google form asking what students found helpful and what is leaving them with questions