The search for the origin of things is one of the driving forces of science. As science
educators, we often ask when and how things start and why? Thus, let me start from the
The introduction of personal computers (PC) in the early 1980s had a great impact to the
educational profession, as had radio, TV, and other media that was introduced before the
PCs. During the early 1980s, the University of Waterloo received a donation of PCs from
IBM. The Physics and the Computing Services Departments teamed up and developed a
local network to provide computing for physics students. Partly because of my interest in
the project, we got 8 PCs for setting up the same type of local network for Chemistry
students as that of the Physics Department.
The graphic capability of the PCs greatly tempted us to simulate chemical and physical
phenomena. We wanted to show how systems response to the driving force of change.
Many of these programs were collected by the SERAPHIM project, which is part of the
J. of Chemical Education. However, information or instructions provided to students
must be organized, and instructions are required to tell students how to use the
simulations for learning and skill developing purposes.
At that time, I learned the concept that later developed into Hypercard by talking to the
computer scientists. I also designed a course to teach chemistry students to design and
write software for chemistry. Some enthusiastic students, in particular Christ Reil and
Adam Asworth, helped me in the development of a primitive browser for processing text
files which had imbedded Script tags. We called these files Instructions.
The browser started by displaying a Menu, which is equivalent to the table of contents in
a textbook. Each item on the Menu is linked to a Instruction file. The choice from the
Menu is achieved by using appropriate keys controlling the cursor movement. By
pressing the Enter key, the Instruction associated with item will be displayed. Pressing
the Esc key will return to the Menu.
Students can switch between the Instruction file and the Menu cess these files for
students, is chained (or linked) to the simulation programs. In a couple of years, our
Computer Assisted Chemistry Tutorial (CACT) system was up and running while it is
being built and expanded.
The CACT system uses a Menu for the organization of information and learning material
and each item on the Menu may contain as many as four components. The Instruction
and Dialogue are handled by the Browser, which is chained to many simulation
programs. Quiz is a separate program to conduct tests, and record marks. They all work
together as if they are in the same system.
In the Instructions, we provide the chemical theories, principles, concepts and examples.
By typing a specified key, the student enters into the Dialogue mode with the computer.
In the Dialogue, students get a set of questions. The questions are designed to help
students master the subject material covered in the Instructions.
Each question has a set of anticipated answers, and depending on the answers entered,
the computer provide an appropriate feed back to the user. The interactivity makes the
CACT different from a textbook.
By typing another key, the computer enters the simulation or demonstration mode.
Students can enter or change some of the variables, and watch the response in graphics.
When the student has finished with the simulation, the simulation program invoke the
browser, and return to Menu of CACT.
A few years into the running of CACT, we added the Quiz to provide the biweekly
quizzes. The are completely handed by the local network computers. In each quiz, a set
of questions are randomly chosen from a pool of questions. The question, answer, and
computer feed back during the quiz are handled in the same way as the Dialogue, but the
marks are recorded and counted toward a certain percentage towards the final grade of
the course. Usually, 10% is allocated for the quizzes, to give an incentive for students to
keep up with the computerized quizzes.
method of operation is very similar to that of the Dialogue. modemust answer
designed and tutoring
Dialogue - questions that requires various types of answers
Simulation or Demonstration - graphic modeling of chemistry systems
Quiz - computer administrated quizzes.