In 2013, at the request of Florida State University’s Chemistry Department and Dr Stephanie Dillon, the Director of Freshman Chemistry Laboratories, we embarked on a project to move the introductory course in chemistry for Liberal Studies to a VLE.
Working with Dr Dillon, we designed a series of lectures, labs and assignments (including reading and examination materials), all presented through the VLE “Liberal Studies Chemistry: A Forensic Academy” Program. Students purchase an access code for the course directly from Pearson Education, or through the University bookstore.
The course asks students to take on the role of a junior forensic scientist in order to solve a case based on a real Tallahassee murder.
Lectures are brought to life in the lab assignments, in which students collect evidence samples from a crime scene, analyse them in a virtual lab, and draft a coroner’s report based on their findings.
Students apply what they have learned using equipment and techniques which would not available to them in real life, in a context that is both exciting and engaging.
The course breaks down as follows:
1. Intro to the Forensic Academy
including lab safety
2. Gathering evidence
3. Chemical basics
4. Chemical structure
5. Chemical evidence: solutions
6. Chemical evidence: drugs
7. Arson and the Chemistry of Fire
8. Time of death
9. Weapons and Chemistry
10. The Biochemistry of Poisons
11. Identifying the suspect: part 1
12. Identifying the suspect: part 2
Dr Dillon hoped that this course would be attractive to a new cohort of Liberal Studies students and the project has proven to be a great success.
In 2012, approximately 20 students per semester were enrolled on CHM1020C — today, there are almost 750 students taking the course annually and it continues to grow. What’s more, early indications show that their understanding and retention of the material has also increased.