Fall 2015 OLCC Class Reflections

This is a page where the participants can reflect on, and discuss the Fall 2015 OLCC. Sort of like an open forum.

If you are interested in participating in a discussion of this project you need to click the "subscribe to comments" option at the bottom of this page (above the comments). You can see who is subscribed by opening the "following comments" option on the accordion on the left frame (the default is "following updates"). If you wish to participate and do not have an account, please contact Bob Belford.

I think the following article and links/material related to it may be of interest to any of us who wish to pursue continuing this project. http://remediatingassessment.blogspot.com/2013/09/on-moocs-boocs-and-docc-innovation-in.html .

Here are some things we could think about.

Is OLCC the right name for this? This may seem a bit lame, but the acronym comes from the 90's, and it needs to reflect the 21st century, not 20th. The above link describes DOCCs as Distributed Open Collaborative Courses.  

What type of online material best engages 21st century students? I am attaching at the bottom of this page an interesting article (you need to login to see it) "This Chart Shows the Promise and Limits of Learning Analytics" by Jeffrey Young in the January 2016 Chronicle of Higher Education.  On page 4 he describes some discoveries Courtney Stewart (Utah State's School of Teacher Education) made through learning analtyics:

One of the biggest surprises he found: Only half the students ever used the home page he had so carefully built for the course. Instead, many students just jumped to the homework, and only clicked to a reading assignment or lecture if they didn’t know the answer to a question.

Did we see this effect?  Did the students make comments on the papers the way I (Bob) expected?  No, they only asked questions about the assignments, and the few of my students that did ask about the papers, were being proded by me in my lecture.  That is, we would discuss the papers, and I would literally assign [read: force] them to ask questions.  The students were uncomfortable asking questions about the papers.  But I do not think that is the whole story, and there is something else that is also going on. Today's youth have grown up in a world a massive information access, and they navigate information differently than those who went to college before the computer and internet became prevalent.  

We do have access to all comments, http://olcc.ccce.divched.org/comments , maybe we should analyse this for what students commented on? If there are clusters of comments on papers that occured Tuesday/Thursday 4:30-6PM Central time, or shortly after, they were being proded by me. (Many students were assigned specific questions that came up in class disussions - and asked them after class.  They were not student originated questions, but the ones dealing with assignments, were).

Is Q and A the way to provide textual information?  Harry Pence's 2008 CCCE Newsletter article Browsers and Burrowers , alerted us to a new trend which 9 years later may have become a reality in that today's students do not read the way they did 50 years ago.  May and Cotton's molecule of the month Newsletter article showed that their style of presenting material online evolved from an encyclopedia style to a Q and A (Question and Answer) style. I (Bob) am trying an experiment here, and making this page in a Q and A, where the Q is red. My thought is does this make it easier for today's student to navigate?  In the above paper's discussion I tried to bring forth the idea of a Q and A textbook format, and does that what we need for the Cheminformatics OLCC? Instead of writing a paper and posting that, should we be doing Q and As?

Is Cheminformatcs changing the fundamental cognitive artifacts used to represent, manipulate and communicate chemical information? Cognitive artifacts are entities outside of the mind that are used in cognitive processes. Some claim they need to be physical, but I would disagree and claim that a digital entity could perform the role of a cognitive artifact.  The shopping list is a classical cognitive artifact, in that writing down what you need reduces the cognitive load involved with memorization to remembering to look at the list, not memorizing what is on the list.  Cognitive artifacts change the cognitive process. Cognitive artifacts like the calculator enable extended cognitive processes where a single cognitive agent uses the calculator in to manipulate arithmetic cognitive tasks. Is a web page like this a cognitive artifact enabling multiagent distributed cognitive processes where more than one agent tackles a task, like deciding what worked and did not work with the cheminformatics OLCC?

Is a Lewis Dot Structure a Cognitive Artifact, a cognitive construct, or what? Good question, worth discussing.  I would say it is a cognitive or mental construct in the sense that a line between to letters is only a bond for the cognitive agent who visualizes atoms as being letters and a bond as being a line between the "atoms", but the construct can be used to represent chemical information in a manner that enables distributed cogintive processes. The artifact would be tool used to create the lewis dot structure, be it chalk and a board, pencil and paper, or monitor and computer. So are the constructs based on the artifacts? I would say yes, and if you did not have the tools (artifacts) you needed to "draw" a lewis dot structure, it would not be a construct that represents a chemical entity.

Is a reaction mechanism a cognitive schema? Schema are frameworks used to organize and interpret construct-based information in the process of performing a cognitive task. I would argue that schema based frameworks we use to solve problems are based on the mental constructs used to represent the information which in turn are based on the fundamental cogintive artifacts.  For extended or distributed cognitive processes, our ability to solve problems is defined by the artifactual technologies we employ 


or concept that




 mainstay in todays classroomstudents in today's world of instant access to multiple information sources have developed ways of navigating information analagous to Harry Pence's Browsers, in contrast to borrowers, maybe chunking information as discussed in the Molecule of the Month


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Ralph Stuart's picture
Ralph Stuart | Sun, 02/14/2016 - 13:08
>What type of online material best engages 21st century students? I've been thinking about this a fair amount of a variety of purposes, so I'll share some random thoughts that might be relevant to the question: 1. When we did the OLCC on chemical safety in 2004(?), it felt pretty exciting to connect students and campuses nationally and I seem to remember greater participation in the on line materials. Whether this was due to the novelty of the opportunity or the topics discussed, I can see where the greater availability of all information in 2015 would require a different medium to keep one's attention these days. 2. Talking to my son about his experience as an undergrad at a high end liberal arts college (graduating in 2013), he would talk about what was said in classes, or reading he did (he likes to talk about ideas), but not about any on-line experiences. That was for entertainment. 3. I have had success with using on line content to prepare students for lecture by pre-loading jargon, but they still needed conversation to incorporate logic that connects those pieces of jargon. Maybe the authors of the OLCC papers could develop quizzes that provide that aspect of the topic?

Leah Rae McEwen | Tue, 02/16/2016 - 17:54
A systematic approach to chemical information is older than any of us and what we are trying to do with chemistry data and information today is not too far off from what has been desired for many generations. Even engaging computers to assist us with this data, actively pursued in very sophisticated efforts since mainframes. While we may think our workflows and information activities are different today than previous generations, the fundamentals that the informed human needs to manage to use the computer are really not that different in principle. I mention this as what I would perceive as a core lesson of the course content. Regarding the course design, I found the lack of cohesive learning objectives and syllabus a significant challenge for pulling together a course, as opposed to a loosely themed series of 'visiting lecturers'. I have experienced as a student (UG and grad), a TA and an instructor various courses taught by multiple lecturers, even in disparate locations via various connecting technologies (my library degree was one of the early online programs). They all suffered this challenge, everyone taught to their own perception of the content and delivery and very little coordination was feasible given limited time. Now as a professional, I have come to appreciate the value of the seminar series style, in person, online, in real-time, as needed. I have my education fundamentals and professional training, and I am looking for different ideas and approaches to augment my knowledge and experience. If I was seeking background and solid foundation in a new area I would search for a cohesive course experience, building material sequentially. There is a forthcoming column on chemistry related MOOCs that looks a bit at this question that we may want to consult. I support the premise that one useful learning goal is the ability of the students to design and conduct ongoing projects. Perhaps a future version could generally scope the type of projects available and target supporting skills to cover in the modules. There is a lack of such a foundation course in chemical information, especially designed to engage 'regular' chemistry majors more directly in the digital culture. They may be brought up surrounded by it, but I have yet to appreciate how much 'under-the-hood' and 'information-as-a-computer-sees-it' learning may be available, even as far as many of us educated in the 'early' days of computer program design that are hacking the informatics space now. New interfaces and tools are more available for lower barrier than ever before, can we marry these with the best practices that are useful to understand behind the scenes for forthcoming chemists to engage more scientifically?