Teaching & Learning Portal


Chris Blackman


Dr Chris Blackman, Chemistry Lecturer

Chris is recognised by this award above all for his development of online (Moodle) prelab support for undergraduate laboratory teaching.

He recognised that his students are insufficiently prepared for the laboratory class; they may have little understanding of the chemical procedures they are undertaking and simply follow instructions mechanically. The laboratory then becomes a barrier to advancement in the course, rather than a learning opportunity. There is no enjoyment, so the full value of the labs is lost. The prelab requirement was for the students to have read and familiarised themselves with the experiment that they were going to perform; however, compliance was often poor and difficult to authenticate. So through an innovative use of Moodle, Chris found a way of providing effective prelab support.

His prelabs are a series of self-contained units, which students can return to as often as they want. They feature online tutorials containing text and video resources, animated examples of solving numerical problems. Above all, they are 'guided lessons' featuring video clips of techniques the students need to perform (provided with permission by the Royal Society of Chemistry) and interactive Java programmes and animations, e.g. a chemical structure drawing programme, or a programme that provides a virtual chemistry bench for carrying out reactions, etc. Students have to answer questions and they get instant feedback enabled by technology.

These prelabs have had considerable impact. In response to the course assessment, 'Which of the experiments did you understand the most?', 70% of students chose an experiment that featured an interactive prelab. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that the performance of students post-lab improves.