Case Study: Chemistry Online

Unicko virtual classroom teacher

Online Chemistry Program

Rachel Eidelman, founder of Chemistry Online shares how they use Unicko to enable hundreds of students across Israel to study online for their chemistry matriculation.

Chemistry Online is a fully accredited online program run by the Davidson Institute of Science Education. It allows Israeli high school students to take chemistry as a matriculation subject even though their schools don’t offer it as an elective. The program was founded in 2014 as a collaboration between the Davidson Institute of Science Education, the Department of Science Teaching at the Weizmann Institute and the Israeli Department of Education. Over the years the program has grown from the initial group of 24 students to over 450 current students from more than 100 different schools. It is now fully funded by the Israeli Ministry of Education. The students participate in the program for 3 years from grades 10 through 12 and hundreds of students have already graduated through the program over the last five years. In addition to their matriculation exams the students also take part in a chemistry olympiad and past students have won an international medal.

“Unicko enables us to optimise our lesson plan as the platform offers all of the features we like to incorporate into the lessons.”

Chemistry Online has been working with Unicko since the program was founded and they use the virtual classroom to deliver thousands of hours of lessons over the course of the year. Each class consists of on average 25 - 30 students and they meet for 4 to 6 hours each week for formal classes. They also have extra tutoring sessions in addition to the independent work they do through the Chemistry Online website. In order for the lessons to be fully accessible to students across the country, the weekly lessons and tutoring sessions are all given online using the Unicko Virtual classroom which is a key component of the program.

“We regularly use presentations during the lesson. Unicko allows the teacher to quickly and easily share them without having to rely on external tools which is essential to us.”

Unicko was purpose built for education and during their lessons the Chemistry Online teachers use most of the features offered by the virtual classroom, beginning with uploading presentations and media directly into the classroom. This allows them to share their material without having to use external software and was a major factor in choosing a virtual classroom, as all of their lessons are taught using custom designed presentations. Inorder to encourage student interaction the presentations include multiple choice questions which they can answer using the Unicko polls.

“We often use the split whiteboard feature as it allows us to see the work of each student.”

Another feature that is used regularly is the interactive whiteboard. Since the whiteboard is optimised for use with graphic tablets, the teachers are able to easily draw and write chemical formulas as they are teaching. They are able to give the students access to write on the whiteboard by using the collaborative mode which enables them to actively participate in the lessons. They also make use of the split whiteboard feature which gives each student a personal copy of the whiteboard to work on. The teachers can view all of the students’ whiteboards allowing them to see their work and track their progress.

“The chat is a popular feature, the students speak in the chat a lot and we download the transcript of the chat at the end of each lesson.”

Unicko’s classroom allows the students to interact with each other and the teachers using their microphones and the chat. They are able to ask questions, have discussions and actively take part in the lesson. At the end of the lesson the teachers are able to download a transcript of the chat. Having the students' questions and discussions was helpful in building the program and creating lesson plans.

“Unicko’s integration allows the students to join via our Moodle instance which is important for their online safety.”

Using Unicko’s LTI, Chemistry Online integrates the virtual classroom into their Learning Management System (LMS). Students can then access the classroom directly through Moodle ensuring that only registered students can join the lessons.

The integration is also helpful in downloading and storing the reports and recordings at the end of each lesson, as it allows them to access all the information they need directly through their LMS. After each lesson they are able to automatically download the recording, attendance report and chat transcript. The attendance report is useful for keeping track of student participation. Chemistry online shares all of the recordings with the students allowing them to easily review the lesson. Since the recordings include the chat, whiteboard, polls and presentations, the students are able to watch as if they were attending the lesson in real time.

As a result of the success of Chemistry Online, several other programs at the Davidson Institute have started teaching online using Unicko. With the National Neuroscience, National Earth Sciences and Computational Science programs using the virtual classroom, Unicko is used extensively for online teaching at the Davidson Institute.