From paper to PC: Introducing electronic lab journals in chemistry practicals

SHORT DESCRIPTION

Over the last years there have been two clear trends that have a strong effect on the way that practical courses offered by ORC (Organic Chemistry) are being organised. Firstly, we continue to see an increase in the number of students. In particular, this growth puts a strain in our supervise-intense practical courses and requires us to come up with ways to supervise these courses more efficiently. Secondly, from an educational point of view, it becomes more important for students to be familiar with electronic lab journals to report their results and manage their data. Electronic lab journals are becoming more and more the standard in chemical research and industry, but also in academic labs. However, to date, this is not covered in the curriculum of Molecular Life Science and Biotechnology students.

To be able to adequately supervise the growing number of students in practical ORC courses, but also to better prepare students for the next step in their career, this education innovation project introduces electronic lab journals into two of our practical courses. This will facilitate and standardize the reporting and data management by students in practical courses. When successful, this means that both the preparation of experiments by students in their (electronic) lab journal as well as the reporting of results during and after the experiment can be monitored more efficiently (i.e. faster and more reliably) done by the supervisors. Part of this monitoring could also be automated by the software. For the students, successful implementation will offer them highly useful experience in electronic lab journal keeping, which is relevant for their further career in chemical research or industry: their future employers will be looking for students with this experience.

We will explore the possibilities of electronic lab journals. Together with a developer, we will design the appropriate lab journal environment that can be used by the students (activity 1). A student assistant will be involved in this design stage. Once designed, the student assistant will perform existing experiments from the practical courses, while using the tailored electronic lab journal (activity 2). Any issues that arise during a ‘test run’ will be dealt with before using the software in small scale (10-12 students) practical course (activity 3). For example, one group of 10-12 students doing the ORC- 20306 practical could be invited to do their practical using the electronic lab journal. Finally, integration with existing online learning environment (e.g. Blackboard) will be undertaken (activity 4). 

OBJECTIVE

Introduce the use of an electronic lab journal into our advanced practical course in Research Methods in Organic Chemistry to adequately supervise the growing number of students in practical ORC (Organic Chemistry) courses and to better prepare students for the next step in their career.  

STRONG POINTS

The outcomes of this project will be clear at the end of 2020. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

For more information or recommendations, please contact Maarten Smulders and/or Bauke Albada and/or Erik van Rozendaal.  

PRODUCTS

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