Today’s Interactive Learning Experience

Photo by Víctor Santa María on

Photo by Víctor Santa María on

From cell phones to Facebook to personal gaming consoles, college students today have grown up accustomed to interactive experiences and increasingly advanced technologies. While there have been many studies that have speculated about the potential negative consequences of these devices, it’s worth exploring how and why new technologies are positively impacting the learning experience of college students. The college learning experience is rapidly evolving, and we are in the midst of a transformation in education; today’s students are truly learning actively and interactively.

Look no further than the iPad® for evidence of the learning shift underway at colleges. The appeal of the iPad is easy to understand, given its widespread use for personal, professional, and educational purposes. College students have embraced the iPad as an integral part of their education; in fact, a study at Oklahoma State University concluded that 75% of students feel that iPad enhances the learning experience. Students like the device because it is easily transportable, and it puts thousands of educational apps at their fingertips (to date, approximately 1 billion apps have been downloaded in Apple’s education app store). Apps are helping complex subject matters come alive, and helping students fully comprehend course content. These apps help make learning more interactive for students. For students who have grown up experiencing real-life graphics on video games and the ability to Skype in real-time with friends across the globe, the benefit of interactively experiencing, processing, and comprehending information cannot be overstated.

Professors are embracing the iPad in the classroom because it allows for instantaneous information sharing, which means professors can more easily engage students to participate in class discussions and track how students understand the material. Gone are the days of professors lecturing from a podium and relying on textbook information for the course syllabus. Today’s educators are able to build rich, engaging course material based on personal experiences, textbooks, other reference material – and apps that make abstract concepts more concrete and understandable for students.

While the technology is evolving on campus, the requirements for graduation remain the same. Most college students are required to fulfill a science requirement in order to graduate, and some students will choose to study chemistry. Chemistry is a complex subject matter, and it can be challenging for some students to grasp concepts presented in both introductory and advanced level courses. You may think chemistry students are condemned to memorization of the periodic table and endless in-class experiments to fully embrace the subject matter. Exciting news – students entering the chemistry classroom this semester now have a new app available to them to enhance their learning experience and help them break free from that despised rote memorization paradigm.

The new app is ChemDraw® for iPad®. ChemDraw allows students (and professional chemists too) to draw, share, and save chemical molecules and reactions on the iPad. ChemDraw is based on desktop software that has been used by the scientific community since the 1980s (read more about the history of ChemDraw and how it was transformed from desktop software to a mobile application). The app allows students to attempt in-class chemistry problems, which quickly help professors assess how well the class understands the course concepts. Chemistry professors agree that it’s difficult to determine how well students comprehend the course material until exam day. The use of ChemDraw in the classroom can help combat this common problem. Using the app, students are able to submit their chemical drawings directly to the professor, and students are more able to actively participate during in-class problem sets.

ChemDraw is also a useful collaboration tool for students working together in-person or remotely in study groups, as the app features unique Flick-to-Share™ technology, which allows students to easily transfer chemical structures to each other (and to their professors and teachers) across mobile devices, with the simple flick of the finger. For students cramming for exams and trying to get a better understanding of chemical reactions, there’s no question this feature will be helpful!

“As a chemistry professor, I am amazed by how quickly and profoundly mobile learning is transforming the classroom. In my role as an educator, I am always looking for ways to help my students interact with and fully process the course material,” said Dr. Layne A. Morsch, Assistant Professor at The University of Illinois-Springfield. “I’m excited about the opportunity to integrate ChemDraw and other mobile applications into my lesson plans to see how I can further engage my students.”

Students heading back to the classroom to conquer a new school year should evaluate their course work and determine where they can incorporate mobile applications. Not only will the mobile applications enrich the learning experience in the classroom, but as the world continually becomes more digital and mobile, an understanding of these new technologies will only help in future career endeavors. And, knowing that students are likely more in-tune with new iPad apps, it can never hurt for a student to introduce a professor to a great learning app – it may in fact score you some extra credit!

Interested in learning more about ChemDraw? Follow the new app on Twitter at @ChemDraw!