Lab Reports the Wiki Way

A recent article in the Journal of Chemical Education reports on the use of a Wiki to enhance the undergraduate laboratory experience. The article is entitled “Using Chem-Wiki To Increase Student Collaboration through Online Lab Reporting” by Edward W. Elliott, III and Ana Fraiman. The undergraduate organic chemistry students at Northeastern Illinois University work on a Biodiesel module created by the Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPiE). The students use the Wiki to discuss experimental results and decide what to do next. “At the end of the six-week, research-based laboratory experiment, each team of students submits one compiled report that documents all of their progress, analyses, and results throughout the entire experiment.” As I understand it, the purpose of the wiki is to help the students in a group work collaboratively on a project. Very little is said on how these wiki lab reports help students in subsequent years to build on the previous results. I also wonder if this format can be used to collaborate with students at other schools who are working on the same module to compare and contrast their results and analyses. The NEIU chemistry department webpage informs us that the chem-wiki is only available to past and current NEIU students, so no other information about this fascinating educational project is available at this time.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted July 27, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the link to that paper – it will come in handy. I still think the wiki makes for an excellent starting point for a lab notebook – especially for the mentor to comment directly into the notebook. But I think they are missing 90% of the benefit by not making it publicly available. I hope we can do another solubility run at some point like we did earlier with your lab. We have a new method based on density that avoids the need for evaporation and so is faster and better environmentally.

    • Posted September 1, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Glad I re-discovered your blog! I too am looking forward to reading that article. I use a wiki and do ONS for Junior Lab (modern physics) at U. New Mexico. The question of year-to-year improvements is really interesting. My anecdotal experience is that there is a definitely improvement from year to year (and even week-to-week) as students build upon prior work. I don’t have a concrete way of measuring that, though — it’s just my strong impression. At the very least, students read each others’ notebooks and provide citations and acknowledgments.


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