Institution of a separate major and BS degree in biochemistry. This decision was made in response to numerous student requests over the years, e.g., in exit interviews, survey forms and informal discussions.
Addition of a new emphasis in environmental chemistry, also in response to student requests.
Discussions with students at an early stage of their undergraduate career had suggested that many were unsure of what it means exactly to be a chemistry or biochemistry major. They did not appreciate the various career options available, nor understand the importance of research in this major. The Department has consequently organized a new course, Chem 1990, which is designed to introduce to students, particularly first-year students, what it means to become a chem/biochem major. The course introduces students to research, not only on campus, but various industrial laboratories in Cache Valley. It also explains a number of diverse career options that will become available to these students.
The organic chemistry lecture series was increased from 3 hours per week to 4 hours per week after students and faculty expressed the opinion that more lecture times were necessary to cover each topic thoroughly.
A large number of students had noted that a 7:30 AM start time was not conducive to effective instruction. The class has consequently been rescheduled for a later time during the day.
Input had suggested that the biochemistry laboratory course (5720) did not cover enough topics in sufficient depth. Consequently, the course has been changed so that each student attends two laboratory sessions each week, doubling the amount of lab content and experience.
Regarding the Department’s capstone course, student comments had led the Department to believe the course needed upgrading, that it was not focused enough, and the effort expended was not consonant with the importance of a capstone course. Improvements were made in a number of ways.
First, the course was split into two separate sections, one for biochemistry majors and another for chemistry majors. In this way, the instructor can better focus upon issues of particular relevance to each discipline.
Secondly, the effort required of each student was increased, as was the number of credits; grading is now by letter, rather than the former P/F grade. Each student is now required to make an oral presentation to a group of faculty, for which they are furnished with written critiques by faculty. This presentation is followed by a poster presentation in a session attended by all members of the Department, including faculty and students.
Quizzing of students had been carried out previously within the context of recitation sections as in General Chem, or in lectures in other courses. Feedback regarding the correct answers to questions was thus delayed by up to a week until the next class, and students were given only one opportunity to display their knowledge, leading to a certain amount of dissatisfaction expressed by students. A number of classes have thus changed their quizzing to take advantage of modern technology, using a WebCT format to administer quizzes. Students are furnished immediate feedback on their performance, and encouraged to study the material, and then retake the quiz so as to enhance their mastery of the subject. The availability of quizzes from a home computer also frees up class time for more productive uses.
Students and faculty alike had expressed the opinion that it is difficult to provide an interactive environment within the context of a large lecture class. The Department is thus engaged in an experiment to use Iclicker technology which allows the instructor to gauge student understanding of individual topics, even in a large class setting.
Substitution of recitation sections of CHEM 1110 with an extra hour of lecture as a response to student requests.
Economic and other considerations have persuaded the Department to employ a small cadre of faculty to act as advisors, rather than a single staff position. There is consequently a potential for inconsistency as different students have different advisors. This potential has been addressed as follows.
- Some inconsistency had been caused by changes of advisor during a typical student's undergraduate career. Such changes have now been minimized, as the group of advisors has stabilized.
- All students who have chosen the biochemistry major are now assigned to a single advisor; likewise for environmental chemistry emphases.
- In order to maximize consistency amongst advisors, this group has begun to convene regularly to discuss any issues that might have arisen and to compare notes.
- Advisors now are sure that all records relating to advising are kept on file in the main office.
- The Department has developed a list of acceptable advanced electives for each major and each emphasis. The publication of this list should further minimize any potential confusion or inconsistency.
- Student comments suggested one particular member of the advising team had not been conscientious in their duties. That individual has since been replaced.
There are indications that these changes have resulted in improvement. The Dean's Office carries out surveys of graduating seniors. Two of these questions concern the students' perceptions of advising. Placing numerical scores on student responses (with 4 indicating strong satisfaction and 1 strong dissatisfaction) the average scores of the overall quality of advising in this Department have risen from 2.55 in 04 to 2.75 (05) and 2.73 (06). Regarding the advisor's knowledge of regulations, the scores rose from 2.58 in 05 to 2.93 in 06.