Begin again

The semester is 3 days old. The new students have arrived and are progressing through welcome week. 2nd and 3rd years are walking the fine line between enjoying themselves and starting classes. Staff are wrangling teaching materials into shape and rubbing their eyes, wondering where summer went to so fast.

One thing that always occurs to me at this time of year is that it is the start of the wheel reinvention cycle again. I look for new workshop questions, better problems and exercises to elaborate key points. I battle to find new papers to set more challenging coursework, or add additional examples to existing data sets. And then I try to write my exam questions, a frustrating task that’s worse when done in advance of teaching the material.  I like the annual maintenance of teaching materials, it’s part of the ritual of getting ready to deliver sessions. What frustrates me is that there are probably several other academics out there doing the same as me. Trying to find that scrap of authentic NMR data for PF5 and a reference for it, or looking for the activation enery for Berry Pseudorotation in a series of compounds. We need to start sharing this stuff because the quantity of time being spent looking up all these old journals, or running countless simple NMR spectra, or redeveloping similar laboratory practicals.

I like the RSC’s LearnChemistry because there are resources there I can download and adapt. It’s very good for for first year teaching in places but not so much for higher levels, although many of the Chemical Vignettes are now there. And I accept the need for an element of quality control, but what would be great would be some kind of password access site where people can upload resources they are willing to, and can share, for teaching purposes. Add in a rating feature and comments boxes for queries and peer review and it could be very useful. Password protection and perhaps access for verified teaching staff only would be essential to keep model answers from easy search.

So, I’ll offer. Currently I teach 1st year spectroscopy (IR, UV-Vis, NMR), 1st year Transition Metals and p-block chemistry, 2nd year multinuclear NMR, homogeneous catalysis, bioinorganic/metals in medicine, 3rd year inorganic reaction mechanisms. I also run a 2nd year practical exam that is a 3 hour lab activity. If any of that might be useful to you, drop a comment. I’m happy to share what I can. Some of it is still a work in progress at this point in the year but it will get there. And similarly if anyone can point me in the direction of good OERs or information sources for the above list, I’d appreciate it.


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