Transforming STEM Education at Small Rural Colleges: Incorporation of Remote Access Spectroscopy and Chromatography to Create an Authentic Laboratory Environment
Small two-year and four-year colleges face the challenge of how to incorporate modern instrumentation into their curricula. Because of the considerable distance between colleges in the Northern Plains Region, exposure to instrumentation must be accomplished by means other than a typical site visit. To address these challenges, the North Dakota State College of Science established a remote access instrumentation network, consisting of NMR, IR, GC-MS, GC, and HPLCﾗeach can be completely operated over the Internet. The instrumentation network aims to transform how smaller colleges approach educating students in STEM programs by providing authentic laboratory experiences instead of relying on simulations and published data.
The goals for the project are to establish the remote access instrumentation network, to design and incorporate experiments and projects appropriate for two-year college chemistry students, and to assess the impact on student learning and engagement. Students enrolled in introductory, general, and organic chemistry, regardless of their location, directly operate each instrument to analyze their own generated samples. An online experiment database and discussion forum is under development and will be designed to promote collaboration between the instructors located at each remote site.
Inquiry-based laboratory activities and research-based projects were developed and implemented into the NDSCS curriculum to enhance the authenticity of the laboratory experience. The experiments were designed to increase our studentsﾒ understanding of spectroscopic and chromatographic techniques, laboratory skills and engagement by providing a more complete and realistic laboratory environment. The assessment of the instrument network will focus on the accessibility of the instrumentation and the authenticity of instrument operation. The assessment of impact on student learning and engagement will rely on analysis of student work, instructor observations of student proficiencies, and responses to student perception surveys.
The remote access instrumentation network is completely accessible over the Internet. The entire process of performing experiments, processing data and printing the results can be achieved from anywhere with Internet access. The instrumentation has been integrated into the NDSCS general and organic chemistry curricula, and a few instrumentation applications were incorporated into the introductory chemistry curriculum. A total of 16 experiments and 3 mini-projects were developed to include an instrumentation component; previously performed organic synthesis experiments were modified to include spectroscopic and chromatographic analysis. NDSCS students operated the GC-MS, GC and HPLC remotely, and the NMR and IR on site. During the project period, 188 NDSCS introductory, general and organic chemistry students were impacted by participating in the remote access operation. The assessment of student learning gains and engagement as a result of firsthand exposure to instrumentation and the mini-projects is ongoing.
The instrumentation network has strengthened the STEM program infrastructure at NDSCS, remote access colleges and participating high schools by providing a substantial chemistry instrumentation facility for faculty to incorporate into their classes. Each instrument is a modern, state-of-the-art instrument, which will provide students with authentic, hands-on experience with industry-standard instruments. In combination with participation in the online teaching and learning community, faculty will have the resources to establish collaborations and to grow as educators.
The primary challenge encountered to date is that the remote instructors have participated minimally in the remote access program. Each partner was originally enthusiastic about the program and pledged to participate. The challenges reported by the remote instructors were being uncomfortable with instrument operation, determining where the instruments fit within their curriculum and finding the time to incorporate the instrumentation. Once method to address the challenge is to reconnect with each remote instructor, to personalize the training and to assist in the integration of instrumentation into their classes.
No publications to date.