About the Concept Builder lessons

The Chem1 lessons originated as important adjuncts to Stephen Lower's teaching at Simon Fraser University where they provided a major instructional component of his first-year courses and enabled the presentation of more material at a greater depth than would otherwise have been possible:


CAI as a medium for mainline instruction in Chemistry


These CAI lesson materials were developed during the period 1990-2002, but they evolved from other CAI software that the author had written beginning in 1969. They are supplied as a set of Authorware 2.2 modules that run in Windows 3.1 through XP.


What are the Chem 1 lessons and what do they try to do?

They are an open-ended set of computer-based materials intended to provide in-depth instruction in General Chemistry at the college and advanced-high school levels. In contrast to the flashy but rather shallow interactive supplements commonly supplied by textbook publishers, the emphasis here is firmly on developing the student's familiarity with the underlying concepts of chemistry. The Chem1 lessons offer more self-pacing and thoroughness than lectures, more focus than textbook study, and more immediate feedback than homework problems. They will be most useful in courses that are specifically adapted to complement this form of study; they will be less effective when employed as simple "add-ons" to conventional instruction. They are especially suited to individual study or distance learning as well as to regular courses in which CAI serves as a major instructional tool.

The sequence of lessons within each topic begins at an elementary level and progresses through more challenging material, often going somewhat beyond the usual first-year content. A hierarchical system of menus allows the student considerable freedom to select appropriate material. For this reason, the lessons are also suitable as review or supplementary materials for courses in analytical chemistry, environmental chemistry, biochemistry, and chemical technology.

Instructional design that works

The Chem1 Lessons are founded on the belief that we learn by creating our own knowledge as a result of our questioning and experience, not by having it poured into our heads from the outside. The lessons adopt the approach of the skilled teacher who proceeds by asking questions, and then leads the students to discover the answers themselves by building on what they already know. This helps consolidate new knowledge into a conceptual framework that will remain even after the details have been forgotten. It also serves as a model for the student's own further intellectual development. These goals are very difficult to achieve within the constraints of conventional classroom instruction. The Chem1 CAI lessons are intended to help overcome these llimitations by contuing and extending what the teacher or the textbook has begun.


What the Chem1 lessons can do for the student

If you are a student, you have probably noticed that Chemistry consists of a whole collection of connected topics that can seem overwhelming when you have to move to a new one before fully understanding what has come previously. The textbook and the problem assignments help and you should make use of them, but it is still sometimes difficult not only to achieve an understanding of a concept, but even to know whether or not you do understand it. The Chem1 lessons help by forcing you to deal with questions that you might not otherwise think of asking, but which are essential to your mastery of a topic. This is especially important for developing concepts that do not lend themselves to numerical problem solving. You will make mistakes, of course, but they are immediately pointed out to you (and to you alone!) so that you can learn from them.


Who can use the Chem1 lessons?

The Chem1 Concept Builder lessons are now freely available to anyone for non-commercial use. Please see the downloads page for information on how to get and install the lessons. The text and graphics within the lessons are covered under the

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License

which permits limited use of this material for other purposes.