Online Multimodal "Textbook" for Chemical Engineering

Online Multimodal "Textbook" for Chemical Engineering

Blended: Introduction to Chemical Engineering

Instructors: Chaitan Khosla, Lisa Hwang
Department/School: School of Engineering
Course: Introduction to Chemical Engineering
Audience: Mostly freshmen and sophomores (65 students in Spring 2013)
Teaching and Learning Approach: Blended

Goals:  Why an online “textbook”? When Professor Chaitan Khosla and Lisa Hwang first started this project, they had pored through many possible textbooks for this class (the mainstream ones costing roughly $200), none of which were close to what they wanted in terms of content.  Although chemical engineering is an “older” discipline where many commonly used textbooks are on edition #5+ (and costs are skyrocketing with every edition), they wanted a resource that reflected the excitement of modern chemical engineering.  What they wanted was a textbook that stayed current, used modern examples to illustrate concepts and could easily be adapted when another faculty member stepped in to teach the class down the road.  They also thought it would be great if they could add short videos or applets that illustrated ideas.  And finally, as believers in open educational resources, it was also important to them to make it free to the general public (and easily portable for other instructors wanting to use any portion of the material).

Although they are not quite there yet, they were fortunate to receive a VPTL Faculty Seed Grant in the first round that these were awarded.  They used the grant in Winter 2013 to prepare for the class offering in Spring 2013.  These funds were used to support a graduate student at 50% to help them prepare for their initial launch on the Class2Go (now OpenEdX) platform.  

Approach: Although they hope that this will be a resource available to anyone with internet access (including instructors at other universities), they designed the use of it primarily for an on-campus class.  The resource consisted of a series of “modules”, each corresponding to approximately 1 lecture, with accompanying practice problems and solutions.  Where they thought appropriate, they added short video demonstrations and/or screencasts to accompany any module content that they thought would benefit from this additional media support.

In-class Strategies: Discussion, Just-in-time Teaching, Peer Instruction, Project-based Learning

Online or out-of-class strategies: Students used the online textbook on the Class2Go online learning platform to learn core content, review recall materials, view practice problems, watch videos (including screencasts of worked problem solutions and lab demos), as well as complete short “checkpoint” questions to test their knowledge of key concepts before coming to class.

Lessons Learned:

-        Finish recording all videos and creating online content BEFORE the first day of class.  Don’t get halfway through and think, “I’ll have time to finish the rest during the quarter”.  Why?  Obvious things like you get tied up with real-time classroom needs.  Less obvious things, however, like additional resources that you were using (like video production, OpenEdX engineering support, etc.) are less available since they are also supporting folks preparing for the following quarter.

-        All videos should be 6-7 minutes maximum.  We had one student write in the end-of-quarter evaluation, “I didn’t watch any video that was longer than 10 minutes.”  Even if you have video content that is longer than this, I recommend breaking it up into shorter 6-7 minute segments.  

-        No existing platform will suit your needs exactly.  Consider what elements are critical to your project when you are deciding which platform to use.  (If you are an expert in designing and developing platforms, ignore this.  Otherwise, you will have to choose from existing platforms.)  Consult with the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning for information about existing platforms, what they offer, and what restrictions the platforms may entail.  The teaching team chose to use Class2Go mainly because it was supported by Stanford and had on-site technical support folks.  The team worked very closely with the platform engineers and are very grateful for their help.  

Plans for Next Iteration of Course: Existing content has been migrated from the Class2Go platform to OpenEdX. The teaching team would eventually like to make materials available to the public including other instructors so that they can use the content for their own classrooms.

About the Teaching Team

Professor Chaitan Khosla

Chaitan Khosla

Chaitan Khosla is a Professor in the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at Stanford University, and Director of the Stanford Institute for Chemical Biology. He received his PhD in chemical engineering in 1990 at Caltech. After completing postdoctoral studies in genetics at the John Innes Centre in the UK, he joined Stanford University in 1992. His research on polyketide synthases has opened the door to fundamentally new approaches for engineering of antibiotics. More recently, he has also investigated celiac sprue pathogenesis with the goal of developing therapies for this widespread but overlooked disease. He has co-authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications and 75 issued U.S. patents, and is the recipient of several awards and honors including the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry and the Pure Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society; the Allan P. Colburn Award and the Professional Progress Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; and the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation. He is an elected member of the American Academy for Arts and Science and the National Academy of Engineering. Over the past two decades, he has co-founded four biotechnology companies (Kosan Biosciences (KOSN), Alvine Pharmaceuticals, Flamentera AG, Sitari Pharmaceuticals), and was the founding President of the non-profit Celiac Sprue Research Foundation.

Lisa Hwang

Lisa Hwang

Lisa Hwang has been a lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering since 2006.  She has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate level courses as well as worked on several projects related to curriculum development and other programmatic needs within the department such as training for teaching assistants.  She also spends a portion of her time as a Center for Teaching and Learning Consultant focused on supporting faculty and lecturers.  She received her PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2006 from Stanford University.

Briana Dunn

Briana Dunn

Briana Dunn is a graduate student in the Chemical Engineering Department. She is currently studying polyketide biosynthesis with Professor Chaitan Khosla. She has been part of the Introduction to Chemical Engineering teaching team for the past two years, and is actively involved in several different teaching and mentoring programs on campus.



 (01:15 ) 
Online Textbook (01:31 ) 
Course Background (01:25)
Online Textbook Instructional Design (01:07)
Process Plan (00:48)
Use of In-Class Time (01:26)
Just-in-Time Teaching (01:19)
Online Textbook as Resource for Other Courses (00:47)
Lessons Learned (2:03)
Student Feedback (00:28)
Course Evaluation (01:01)
Next Steps (00:58)
Open Educational Resource (01:06)

This project was funded in part by a Faculty Seed Grant from the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching & Learning (VPTL).