Cyber Peer-Led Team Learning (cPLTL) in Organic Chemistry

Project No.
PI Name
Pratibha Varma-Nelson
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Abstract 1

Cyber Peer-Led Team Learning (cPLTL) in Organic Chemistry

Presentation Type
Sarah Beth Wilson & Pratibha Varma-Nelson


The cyber Peer-Led Team Learning (cPLTL) workshops are a synchronous online adaptation of the educational intervention PLTL, in which students, under the guidance of undergraduate peer facilitators, work collaboratively in small groups to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. This work was done to study the feasibility of transferring a face-to-face pedagogy online.


This paper will describe a comparison of first semester organic chemistry students experience and mastery of curved arrow formalism in PLTL and cPLTL.


This parallel convergent mixed methods study assessed the impact of implementing cPLTL on organic chemistry studentsメ workshop experiences, performance, and development of curved arrow formalism reasoning skills. Statistical analyses of student perception surveys, course grades, attendance rates, and achievement on an American Chemical Society First-semester Organic Chemistry Exam were performed. Likewise, workshop discourse and student interview dialogue and artifacts were evaluated using several analytic frameworks, including: Bloomメs Taxonomy; Toulminメs Argumentation Pattern; a new Curved Arrow Formalism framework; and a new framework for assessing studentsメ organic chemistry reasoning process.


although the course grade distributions and final exam scores were comparable for students from both settings cPLTL students' interview responses were significantly more likely to exhibit incorrect curved arrows. This presentation is based on the dissertation of Sarah Beth Wilson.

Broader Impacts

This study informs how students learn chemistry in synchronous online environments compared to learning in face to face environment using the same pedagogy. With increase in distance learning courses in higher education it is important to know what effect the environments have on students' learning and how to use that information to design instruction.
Dissemination has been carried out through the construction of a website (, publishing papers, offering national workshops and individual consultations.

Unexpected Challenges

Changes in technology. I work with Instructional technologists to solve the issues that arise. Otherwise the project has surpassed our expectations in producing results. We have done a lot with a small grant.


Smith, J., Wilson, S.B., Banks, J., Zhu, L., & Varma-Nelson, P. (2014). Replicating Peer-led Team Learning in Cyberspace: Research, Opportunities, and Challenges. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(6), 714-740.

McDaniel, J., Metcalf, S., Sours, J., Janke, T., Newbrough, J. R., Shuck, L., & Varma-Nelson, P. V. (2013). Supporting student collaboration in cyberspace: A cPLTL study of web conferencing platforms. EDUCAUSE Review Online.

Varma-Nelson, P., & Banks, J. V. (2013). PLTL: Tracking the trajectory from face-to-face to on-line environments. In T. Holme, M. Cooper, and P. Varma-Nelson (Eds.), Trajectories of chemistry education innovation and reform (pp. 95-110). Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.

Mauser, K., Sours, J., Banks, J. V., Newbrough, R., Janke, T., Shuck, L., Zhu, L., Ammerman, G., & Varma-Nelson, P. (2011). Cyber peer-led team learning (cPLTL): Development and Implementation, EDUCAUSE Review Online, 34.

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