"The problem with learning chemistry from a textbook is that many of the concepts presented are abstract and difficult for students to connect to real-world experiences," says Melissa McCartney, an editorial fellow at Science. "The ChemCollective aims to enhance chemistry education by providing online materials that allow students to use the facts and equations found in their textbooks in ways that resemble the conduct of practicing chemists, making the design and interpretation of experiments an integral part of learning chemistry."
Because the ChemCollective software is distributed for free, it's hard to quantify how much it is used. However, the associated Web site is "always being used," Yaron says. Last year, the Virtual Lab was operated more than 100,000 times from the Web site and downloaded more than 25,000 times. Furthermore, homework that included the ChemCollective was extremely effective as a teaching tool, according to testing. In a study of the technology, about half of the learning that occurred throughout an introductory course was attributable to the ChemCollective.
Yaron says he anticipates a boost in the ChemCollective's popularity, particularly among scientists, as a result of winning the SPORE contest.
"Having a two-page article in Science will cause people who didn't know about us to take a look," he says, "and those who knew a little to learn more."
Yaron says that as he looks at chemistry's future, he sees all kinds of interesting opportunities. "Green chemistry," or developing chemical technology "in a better, safer way," has changed the field such that "a lot of questions in chemistry that were solved aren't considered solved anymore," Yaron says.
"Not only is that impo
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American Association for the Advancement of Science