The Class of 2009 Support an Ecosystem of Chemistry Appreciation

Thanks to the support from the Class of 2009, OCW was able to update the video lectures of 5.111 Principles of Chemical Science — a foundational MIT course serving hundreds of MIT students and thousands of learners around the globe every year.

What Was Made Possible by This Support

A skewed, cropped screenshot of the 5.111 course home page on MIT OpenCourseWare.

In 2008, 5.111 was co-taught by Professors Cathy Drennan and Beth Vogel-Taylor. With the interest in sharing a different method to teaching the course, Professor Vogel-Taylor approached OCW to re-film class sessions and publish the lecture notes. This course update proved more popular than its Fall 2005 version, generating an average of more than 500 daily course site web visits.

To-date, 5.111 has received more than 1.8 million website visits providing thousands of people with the practical knowledge of the chemistry of biological, inorganic, and organic molecules. Learners are able to synthesize the basic principles of atomic and molecular electronic structure, thermodynamics, acid-base and redox equilibria, chemical kinetics, and catalysis.

Text graphic reading '5.111 videos have received a joint total of more than 3.2 million views on YouTube.'

The course also includes the complete reading and lecture notes for all 36 sessions, course exams with solutions, equation sheets and the final exam. The support from the Class of 2009 made it possible to publish full video lectures with captions and interactive transcripts, which allow learners to search for and jump to keywords within each lecture, and highlight clips to share.

"Thank you and thank you so much, we are in Indonesia, English is our second language, we learn a lot because we can listen to them and read what they are saying. They are very good teacher and we love chemistry."


Making Connections Between the Sciences

To illuminate connections between chemistry and biology and spark students' excitement for chemistry, frequent biology-related examples were incorporate into the lectures. These in-class examples range from two to ten minutes, designed to succinctly introduce biological connections without sacrificing any chemistry content in the curriculum.

A list of the biology-, medicine-, and MIT research-related examples used in 5.111 is provided in each example in a PDF. To reinforce the connections formed in lecture, biology-related problems were also include in each homework assignment.

A graphic showing connected course materials labeled 'Lecture Topics', 'Biological Examples', and 'Biology-Related Homework Problems and In-Class Demonstrations/Activities.'

Building a Team of Teachers

Teaching a large class with 350 students is challenging, and success depends upon the strength and dedication of the Teaching Assistants (TAs). Because these first-year graduate students are considered part of the instructional team, TAs undergo a 5-day training prior to the start of the course.

They learn how to teach the subject and about team building, active learning strategies, challenges in teaching 5.111, and diversity issues. The TAs’ shared experience fosters a sense of group identity among them, so they also support one other as a team.

"We start the semester with a group of teaching assistants who are really excited about being part of the course. This has had such a wonderful impact on the learning experiences of students. They see that the whole teaching team wants to be there, is enthusiastic about the opportunity to teach them, and cares about each and every one of the students."

Catherine Drennan

Reaching More Independent Learners

Text graphic reading In less than one year since it was published, 5.111SC has received more than 151,000 website visits.'

In publishing 5.111, the support the Class of 2009 helped create the opportunity for any learner to gain a deep understanding for the principles of chemistry. This course laid the groundwork for a more holistic approach to learning chemistry. OCW collaborated with Professor Drennan to create an OCW Scholar version of 5.111, known as 5.111SC, for learners interested in mastering foundational subjects at the college level, and includes similar content from 5.111.

5.111SC Principles of Chemical Science is structured in linear fashion, progressing through five learning units: The Atom, Chemical Bonding and Structure, Thermodynamics and Chemical Equilibrium, Transition Metals and Oxidation-Reduction Reactions, and Chemical Kinetics.

A Resource Index page collects and organizes the course materials sequentially and by content type (video lectures, notes, problem sets, etc.), allowing learners to quickly find topics and see how all the content is connected and related to real world applications.

"You can tell Dr. Drennan really cares about the learning of her students. Everything is so clear and descriptive. Her lectures have forced me to rethink my previous aversion to Chemistry. All I can say is thank you!!"

From a YouTube comment

Insights from the Instructor

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To round out this comprehensive resource, Professor Drennan shares insights about the craft of teaching and her passion for innovative science education.

In a series of short Instructor Insights videos produced by the OCW Educator project, Professor Drennan describes her techniques for teaching 5.111. She explains how she creates dynamic, interactive classroom experiences that include demonstrations, clicker question competitions, rewards for correct student explanations, and lots of humor as a tool.

Creating an Ecosystem of Chemistry Appreciation

A screenshot of the Behind the Scenes at MIT website, featuring images of 5 people ranging from student to researcher to instructor, surrounded by chemistry-themed equipment and imagery.

Many of the topics in 5.111 are brought even more to life through accompanying “Behind the Scenes at MIT” videos. Professor Drennan’s passion for chemistry and strong belief that chemistry can help solve some of the world’s problems led her to create this collection of short videos, featuring MIT researchers explaining how a textbook chemistry topic is essential both to their research and to an inspiring real-world application. The videos were produced by the Drennan Research and Education Laboratory as part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professors grant.

The videos bring the why and the who of chemistry research into introductory classes. These videos help motivate students to learn chemistry, inspire students to tackle important scientific problems in their future careers, and expose students to the many faces of chemistry.

The science videos can be searched by chemistry topic (i.e. atomic theory, bonding, acid-base equilibrium) or by research application. A set of accompanying personal videos, one for each scientist featured, illustrates the journeys to becoming a scientist. Some of these videos highlight challenges that have been overcome, such as dealing with learning disabilities, growing up gay and intellectual in a conservative small town, and having to learn English in order to understand science class.

"MIT students, and I think so many people out there, want to make the world a better place. They need the tools... I want to create those tools for them to learn so that they can apply (their knowledge), do something important, and see the power of chemistry."

Catherine Drennan

Thank You for Supporting OCW

We are grateful for the support of the MIT Class of 2009 because it enabled the creation of a robust publication that continues to serve as a learning resource for students at MIT and beyond.

Class of 2009 supports OCW

"Every student touches OCW. And it's not only good for students at MIT, but for people everywhere. OCW is MIT's stamp on the world."

The Class of 2009
MIT Class of 2009 at Commencement. The class of 2009.

Yvonne Ng | MIT OpenCourseWare

In the spirit of giving back at MIT, each class is tasked to choose how they can help improve MIT for current and future generations.

The MIT Class of 2009, however, considered projects that benefitted not only MIT students but also those outside of the Institute. With its global reach as well as its impact on the MIT experience, OCW was the ideal fit for their class project.

An important legacy

In choosing OCW, the MIT Class of 2009 supports a resource that nearly every student at MIT uses. Whether to compliment current studies, brush up on skills from previous semesters, or map out academic careers, MIT students turn to OCW as an important academic aid.

The MIT Class of 2009 gift also has global impact, as OCW reaches far beyond the MIT campus, supporting millions of educators and learners around the world.

Class Coordinator Brandon Reese ('09) explained it best when he said, "Every student touches OCW. And it's not only good for students at MIT, but for people everywhere. OCW is MIT's stamp on the world."

Supporting 5.111

The Class of 2009 chose to support 5.111 Principles of Chemical Science, one of the most popular courses on OCW and a general Institute requirement. Through new videos and course materials generated with their gift, the Class of 2009 is providing open educational resources that will further the study of chemistry at MIT and throughout the world for years to come.