INFLUENCE OF DISTANCE LEARNING ON CHEMISTRY LABORATORY WORK.

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY.

Experimentation is obviously central to scientific investigation, but what compelling reasons are there for students to perform experiments, particularly the textbook laboratory exercise in which the results are already well known? There are two main elements to an experiment: its design and analysis of the data. But no experiment can be performed without error, so one must determine with what degree of certainty the data supports a particular hypothesis. Coming to terms with the inaccuracy and imprecision of results requires knowledge of the interplay between experimental design and data analysis. Some laboratory skills, such as the statistical analysis of data, can be learned in the abstract outside of the laboratory. Experimental design, however, can only be learned from using real equipment in real experiments, often through a certain amount of trial and error.

Distance education attempts to achieve traditional educational goals with the added challenge of connecting the instructor and student by some delivery technology. There is general agreement on the fundamental role of the laboratory component in any first year general chemistry course in a Bachelor of Science program. The exact form or nature of the laboratory experience, however, has been the subject of much debate in the literature (Bennett, Seery, & Sovegjarto-Wigbers, 2009; Buntine et al., 2007; Domin, 1999; Elliott, Stewart, & Lagowski, 2008; Pickering, 1993; Reid & Shah, 2007; Talanquer, 2012). Reid and Shah (2007) presented a general set of goals that chemistry laboratory experiences should include, such as making chemistry real to the student, allowing the student to learn practical and scientific skills, and developing general skills such as problem solving ability. When a general chemistry course is being delivered to a distance student, a key question is how to provide this student with the laboratory portion of the course to accomplish the desired learning objectives.

Many educational institutions have tackled this problem by requiring distance students to attend on-campus laboratory courses offered on weekends or in a multi-day block (Lyall & Patti, 2010). Expecting a distance student to attend a physical lab course during a narrow and intensive time-frame eliminates the main advantage of distance education, namely flexibility. Another solution is offering distance chemistry students the opportunity to complete the laboratory component of the course from home using home experiment kits. Several academic institutions have adopted this approach by successfully developing and offering these laboratory experiences for their distance general chemistry students in B.Sc. programs (Casanova, Civelli, Kimbrough, Heath, & Reeves, 2006; Jeshofnig & Jeshofnig, 2011; Kennepohl, 2007; Lyall & Patti, 2010). Removing students from the “traditional” laboratory setting typically found in our post-secondary institutions does raise questions around how authentic and rigorous the home laboratory learning experience is, especially to other institutions asked to accept these experiences as equivalent for transfer credit. Accordingly, several authors have reported a general resistance in chemistry to accepting non-traditional experiences or alternate delivery modes as being equal to the traditional forms of laboratories (Bradley, Durbach, Bell, Mungarulire, & Kimel, 1998; Casanova et al., 2006; Forinash & Wisman, 2001; Reeves & Kimbrough, 2004).

The term e-learning is also found in the literature although there are many different opinions on what it means (Coryell & Chlup, 2007; Larreamendy-Joerns & Leinhardt, 2006; Moore et al., 2011; Oblinger & Hawkins, 2005). A recent study aimed at generating a definition of e-learning that would be acceptable to the majority of the scientific community published the following:E-learning is an approach to teaching and learning, representing all or part of the educational model applied, that is based on the use of electronic media and devices as tools for improving access to training, communication and interaction and that facilitates the adoption of new ways of understanding and developing learning. (Sangrà, Vlachopoulos, & Cabrera, 2012, p. 152)

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM.

It is believed that Chemistry laboratory work in distance learning courses is not effective. Therefore there is need to find a way to positively influence effectiveness of chemistry laboratory works in distance learning centers.

1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY.

The main objective of the study is to research the influence of distance learning on chemistry Laboratory works.

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS.

What is the meaning of distance learning?

What is chemistry Laboratory work?

What is the influence of distance learning on chemistry Laboratory work?

1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY.

The study will help in developing a way to positively improve the influence of distance learning on chemistry Laboratory works. This study will also help in standardizing chemistry courses in distance learning centers.

1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY.

The study focus on chemistry Laboratory works in distance learning centers.

REFERENCES.

Al-Shamali, F., & Connors, M. (2010). Low-cost physics home laboratory. In D. Kennepohl & L. Shaw (Eds.), Accessible elements: Teaching science online and at a distance (pp. 131-145). Edmonton, AB: AU Press.

Bennett, S. W., Seery, M. K., & Sövegjarto-Wigbers, D. (2009). Practical work in higher level chemistry education. In I. Eilks & B. Byers (Eds.), Innovative methods of teaching and learning chemistry in higher education (pp. 85-102). Cambridge, UK: RSC Publishing.

Benson, A. (2004). Distance education: Ready and willing to serve the underserved? Quarterly Review Distance Education, 5(1), 51-57.

Bradley, J. D., Durbach, S., Bell, B., Mungarulire, J., & Kimel, H. (1998). Hands-on practical chemistry for all-Why and how? Journal of Chemical Education, 75(11), 1406-1409. doi:10.1021/ed075p1406

Harasim, L. (2000). Shift happens: Online education as a new paradigm in learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 3(1-2), 41-61. doi:10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00032-4

Harasim, L. (2011). Learning theory and online technologies. New York: Routledge Press.

Reid, N., & Shah, I. (2007). The role of laboratory work in university chemistry. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 8(2), 172-185. doi:10.1039/b5rp90026c

Pickering, M. (1993). The teaching laboratory through history. Journal of Chemical Education, 70(9), 699-700. doi:10.1021/ed070p699

Reeves, J., & Kimbrough, D. (2004). Solving the laboratory dilemma in distance learning general chemistry. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 8(3), 47-51.

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