Using home-laboratory kits to teach general chemistry
Kennepohl, Dietmar K.
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University-level chemistry courses that contain a substantial laboratory component have always been a challenge to deliver effectively through distance education. One potential solution is to enable students to carry out real experiments in the home environment. This not only raises issues of logistics and safety, but also the fundamental question of whether an equivalent learning experience could be achieved with home laboratories. Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University, has been successfully running chemistry courses for almost three decades. The migration from traditional supervised laboratories to home-study experiments over a fifteen year period in a general chemistry course is described. The study examines both student experience using the home-study laboratory kits, and their actual performance. Student grades in the course essentially remain the same as supervised laboratories are replaced by home-study laboratories, while at the same time offering the student increased access and flexibility. Furthermore, bringing experiments into a home environment contextualizes learning for the student and raises the possibility of incorporating the home-study laboratory experience, in whole or in part, into traditional general chemistry course offered on campus.