The K-12 education landscape has undergone a significant transformation as technology has evolved. Traditional classroom teachers now have the luxury of using a blended learning approach, complementing their lessons with online classes offering flexibility and innovative approaches. Some students learn solely online. So, how in the world do you keep them engaged in a virtual learning environment with a subject like chemistry? As a course that relies heavily on experimentation and interaction, developing it into an online curriculum presented challenges.
Our academic affairs team embraced the challenges and created opportunities. Bringing their unique backgrounds and skill sets to the table, they enthusiastically dug in and built an online curriculum that will keep high school chemistry students coming back for more.
We’re going to take you on a journey to meet the team who brought Lincoln Learning Solutions’ Empowered Chemistry course to life and explore the steps, strategies, and insights that make it a dynamic and effective learning experience.
Meet the online curriculum creators
Four women with rich and varied science backgrounds comprise Lincoln’s 7-12 science team responsible for writing the curriculum in collaboration with a seasoned media expert. Elena Gilbert stars in the course.
Charged with dusting off the old chemistry course and coming up with a fresh, online class, the team knew they were in for a challenge, particularly because chemistry requires a lot of lab work, and the materials can be difficult.
After brainstorming and storylining, the team came up with an idea that somewhat mirrors the early career path of their leader Carly Pietrzyk, who began in forensics.
She explained storylining creates connections between relevant content and scientific phenomena guiding students in developing their understanding of difficult concepts and serving as a vehicle for teaching in a K-12 science-content-aligned classroom.
The preliminary steps of the team’s process also involved outlining learning objectives, determining the scope and sequence of topics and subtopics, planning lab activities, and aligning the course with Next Generation Science Standards.
Bringing the course to life
The key lived in the concept: CheMYSTERY. It provided a backdrop they were sure would draw in students, spark their curiosity, and facilitate an understanding of tough material. Mystery was the driving force. It set the stage for the course’s look and feel. Students engage in CheMYSTERYs at the conclusion of each topic to solidify their learning and solve a mystery using their chemistry knowledge.
Click the beaker to see the CheMYSTERY teaser.
“The incorporation of the CheMYSTERY pieces was a fun way to add hands-on labs, virtual simulations, applications of real-world phenomena, and cross-disciplinary connections,” 7-12 Subject Matter Expert Mandy Howison said. “They were a lot of work to create but I was so engaged and excited to be producing them.
“Definitely the CheMYSTERY activities were the most fun,” her colleague Liz Lehnertz agreed. I looked forward to incorporating the media images and coming up with Elena Gilbert's next investigation adventures.
As the grade 7-12 science standards subject matter expert, Liz was also responsible for assuring the course aligned to educational standards.
Engaging visual aids and high-quality content not only elevates students’ level of understanding but also makes the learning experience more enjoyable and memorable. The team knew its concept needed a dose of stellar multimedia content.
Enter Mallory Senich from the Lincoln creative media team.
“Ooh, chemistry…it wasn’t my favorite subject as a student, ha ha! It was intimidating at times, but Carly and her team helped me understand when I felt lost. I was the sole graphic designer on the workbook. It was a lot of back and forth. We incorporated Polaroid-style frames, layered imagery, and stuck to a mature style suited to a secondary learning level. We worked so well together it made my job easy.
“In addition to working with my team to develop the CheMYSTERY scenarios, I think one of my favorite parts of the process was looking at the artwork when the creative media team completed it to see how our vision for the course played out,” Pietrzyk said.
Injecting calculations, cohesion, and care
Of course, any chemistry student will tell you math plays a significant role in grasping chemistry concepts. Analyzing data, measuring energy, performing stoichiometric calculations, etc., all require math.
For Science Subject Matter Expert Celine Haselrig, helping students digest those elements was a big motivator throughout her work on the project.
“Being a physics and math certified teacher, I enjoyed creating the learning objects involving math, and organizing the solutions step-by-step so students could follow along as though I were sitting beside them,” she said.
Stacy Bystry, the science team editor, played an integral role in assuring the chemistry content contained a consistent and cohesive format. The team appreciated having her non-science perspective to ensure the content was presented in a manner students could comprehend.
Developing a virtual chemistry course, as you can see, is a multifaceted endeavor requiring careful planning, creativity, and a deep understanding of the subject matter and technology. By embracing the challenges and opportunities presented by the virtual learning environment, our team created an enriching and interactive course that prepares students for success in the world of science.
Howison probably summed it up best:
“I am absolutely smitten with all disciplines of science, especially chemistry. Being part of this amazing team allowed me to create educational pieces for students that I hope will get them as excited about chemistry as I am.”
Now, it’s on to the next step. The team will continuously improve the course. They’ll look at student performance analyses, gather feedback, and adapt the course based on real-world experiences. As with all Lincoln Empowered courses, the team will ensure that online high school chemistry remains relevant, effective, and engaging. The team will tackle Empowered Biology next.
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