Philosophy

It is important in any teaching philosophy to design a course to motivate the student in terms of attention, to capture and maintain their interest during the classroom experience, in terms of relevance, having the course meet the immediate student needs of passing the exams, but also relevancy to the students career, in term of confidence, thorough practice and examples so the student can be confident in the skills to be mastered and finally in terms of satisfaction, that the course as a whole has achieved the goals of the student in what he needs to learn, the teacher, in terms of what he wants to teach.

Use of Virtual Learning Environments and the net

I have always tried to be on the forefront of using advanced teaching aids in courses. For example, even in the early 90's, all the lectures were in electronic form (and available online, if only through FTP). Now, it is almost mandatory that the presentation material be available on-line. This not only motivates attention, in that the lecture material is well organized, but also it increases the students confidence, in that the materials are available outside the lecture environment for review. Due to my expertise in web design (for example see my home page http://www.esblurock.info), I organize all my lectures online, even on Merlot (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching). Now whenever I design a new course (or a set of individual lectures for a partial course) or if I reorganize a new course, I use public domain course management systems, for example Moodle (http://moodle.org/) or It’s Learning.

Podcast experiments

I have now experimented with 'podcast' versions of my lectures as voiced over slides. A complete course for chemical kinetics for engineers (given for IFP, Paris France for several years) is now in podcast form on youtube ( https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL083903D686F3ECD2 or search in videos “Blurock Combustion”), in a moodle VLE system on my homepage (http:www.esblurock.info/moodle sign in as guest). I have also experimented with demonstration videos, for example my video explaining a candle flame (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3l9c70p2vs or search “Blurock Candle flame”) .

Integration of public domain software into courses

In past courses, I have tried to increase relevancy, by, whenever possible, integrating (public domain) scientific software into the courseware so as to give students the opportunity to deal with problems beyond 'pencil and paper'. The most successful implementation of this was his artificial intelligence (Univerisity of Linz, Austria) course where several public domain software systems were used to present the advanced concepts and for the students to complete practical exercises. In this type of course, if one is limited to pencil and paper, the type of homework assignments borders on being trivial. This not only means that the gap between these assignments and their use in 'real' situations is quite large, not to mention boring. Integrating these tools into the course enabled not only the simple introductory concepts to be explored, but also more complex assignments closer to how they are used in real research. These gave the student a better feeling of accomplishment to see the concepts 'in action'. Attention is enhanced, since the exercises are actually interesting and non-trivial and confidence is enhanced, because of more practice with the material and concepts. I found such a course design gave an high overall satisfaction.

An enormous potential exists for chemistry, given the amount of public domain software that is available. Since chemistry can be very visual, attention can be enhanced through the use of the many visualation programs around. Computational programs, for example, simple thermodynamic calculators or other database programs, can be incorporated to increase not only attention, by having more varied and interesting problems, but also relevance, getting the student used to interacting with the scientific software.