LearnChemistryBetter is a self-guided,online course administered through the Canvas platform. It was developed for use with class groups, but it probably works as well or better for individual students moving at their own pace.
Prerequisites as stated on the website are that students have achieved an A in Algebra 1 and/or at least a C in Algebra 2 because they will require the algebraic knowledge for the math applications within the course. Students who struggle with math might find Frank Cardulla’s Chemistry course (The Great Courses) a perfect complement since Cardulla focuses on helping students with the math and problem solving for chemistry.
Aside from lab equipment, the course is self-contained. Students may use a chemistry textbook for reference but it is not required.
This is a full-credit, college prep course. It is presented in 15 modules with a number of lessons per module. There are about 50 homework assignments and more than 100 experiments. They say that students should spend about 10 hours per week on the course, but they show that it is possible to complete it in about 18 weeks rather than a full school year. If a student puts 180 hours into the course, however many weeks that takes, it should be a full credit course.
Modules vary greatly in length. Some have just a few lessons and no experiments, while others such as Module 7 have lots of videos and lots of experiments plus supporting note sheets, homework, etc. You won’t be able to plan a consistent time for completing each module.
Topics covered in the 15 modules are: Atomic Structure, Quantum Mechanics, Periodic Table, Formulas, Bonding, Reactions, Equilibrium and LeChatelier’s Principle, Molar Mass, Stoichiometry, Percent Composition and Empirical-Molecular Formulas, Gas Laws, Solutions, Acids and Bases, Thermal Chemistry, and Nuclear Chemistry. Each module begins with an overview and lists of learning goals and objectives. Key vocabulary terms and people are also listed here.
For each lesson, students will need to print the teacher-created notes. These substitute for textbook content, so they should be kept in an orderly fashion for review. For some lessons, students will also print out one or more worksheets.
Students will then watch the lesson video. These vary greatly in length from about10 minutes to about 75 minutes. The length of the video is shown in advance so students are aware before they even start watching. Briefer, supplemental videos are also linked if students need more explanation of some topics. Sometimes there are other links to “Extra Interesting Stuff” such as a website showing “How Black Lights Work.” Occasionally links are to games or other learning resources such as the link to the Mystery Element Game for review of the Periodic Table.
Homework assignments are sets of multiple-choice questions which are answered and scored online. Students should print these out somehow so that they can go back and review the questions for tests.
Lab work is included although students will need to purchase a separate lab kit. Esselman incorporates kits that are very reasonably priced. When Esselman presents at homeschool conferences, she sells an LCB kit with chemicals that she is not normally able to ship to customers. That kit is referenced in the lessons along with another option, the C1000 kit. Students can work with either kit. Downloadable worksheets are included for the LCB kit, while the C1000 kit has its own lab manual, and students have everything they need in that kit. Occasionally, there are experiments that require only household resources and nothing from either lab kit; lab sheets are included for these experiments. Esselman includes a separate video on “How to Write a Lab Report,” linking to it frequently so students can get help if they need it.
An online, timed test is given at the end of each module. There are also a mid-term and a final exam. If students get stuck, they have email access to course instructor Brenda Esselman.
While mastery of course content is assessed frequently, students will be on their own for lab work. This means that someone should really be checking over lab work and lab reports. While I reviewed the self-guided version of the course, students can also upgrade to a teacher-guided course for $200. I assume that they would then receive more oversight for lab work—at least review of lab reports. The teacher-guided course is limited to four months, not including summer months, which seems an odd amount of time. I assume that students can sign up for another four months if needed.
Because the course was first developed for classroom groups, the course reflects an underlying expectation that students will all begin at the same time and can support each other in an online community. Any student, whether in a course with a cohort group or working on their own, may participate and collaborate with other students in the"active learning community," but participation is not required.
Esselman’s teaching experience is very evident in the course design. She has laid out everything step-by-step so that it is very easy for students to follow. There are three sample lessons that you can access for free so that you can check it out before buying.