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Online Web Learning tool from Cengage Learning improves final grades in Organic Chemistry at Wageningen University

“A significant correlation exists between homework scores achieved using our Online Web Learning Tool (OWL) from Cengage Learning and students' final grades. OWL has been directly attributed to raising standards and results for our students”, says Erik van Rozendaal, Assistant Professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

About Wageningen University

Wageningen University in the Netherlands specialises in Life Sciences with a particular focus on ‘healthy food and the living environment’. It offers a wide range of Organic Chemistry courses that attract an intake of 1,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students every year.


About Online Web Learning (OWL)

At the heart of innovative learning at Wageningen University is OWL – a powerful online learning system for chemistry that engages students, assesses performance and improves learning outcomes. OWL, which has been integrated into the University’s Organic Chemistry courses, is paired with the text Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry and Organic Chemistry by John McMurry and comes with an integrated eBook version of the adopted text. OWL encompasses a wide variety of homework exercises to encourage greater student engagement and participation.

Helping students to master concepts

Developed to help students visualise chemistry and to improve their problem solving skills, OWL includes a module called Mastery Learning Problems comprising questions associated with specific concepts or skills. Rather than just working through equations, OWL facilitates student’s understanding of the underlying concepts by giving them the opportunity to answer questions and find solutions to problems, using different variables each time so that they can continue trying until they have mastered the material.

End of Chapter Questions taken from McMurry’s textbook are also available on OWL, often accompanied by tutorials to guide students through each problem.

Providing students with a greater visual experience

Designed to aid student’s conceptual understanding of chemical structures, Simulations contains an interactive panel that allows students to adjust variables in a system, observe the resulting changes to the system and answer a set of guiding questions that promote exploration of the concept. Online visual exercises contain guiding questions and interactive illustrated figures directly from the textbook, promoting further exploration of concepts around the figure. JMOL applets provide an interactive, three dimensional viewing experience of molecules and Marvin Sketch software for drawing molecules.


Introducing students to OWL

OWL was offered to first year Organic Chemistry students studying at Wageningen 3 years ago as part of a trial to improve participation and learning outcomes which have radically changed the face of online learning at the university.

Since then, it has grown substantially in popularity with 95% of the students on the first year Organic Chemistry courses using OWL to score bonus points which go towards their final year results. “We also set assignment deadlines in OWL to ensure a higher level of commitment from students which motivates them to keep up to speed with the content”, said Erik.

Improving results

Over the last two years, 1,000 students across several Organic Chemistry courses have embraced OWL as an essential learning support tool. The proportion of students completing their homework has risen and, most importantly, the university has found a direct correlation between student’s homework scores in OWL and their final grades. Students who achieved good results in OWL have also performed well in exams.

Due to the overall improvement in results and the positive feedback received from students, the university is currently considering implementing OWL for both second and possibly third year students.

Advice for other institutions

Concluding Erik van Rozendaal said, “In an increasingly competitive market it is important for universities as learning institutions to prepare students adequately to enter the workforce. Any university who offers Chemistry courses and is serious about helping their students excel, should consider OWL which, in my experience has led to significant improvements in the grades of our students year on year.”