Shubert produces engaging, unique electronic chemistry textbook


Newman University Professor of Chemistry David Shubert, Ph.D. has recently signed a contract with Cengage Learning, a global provider of teaching, learning and research solutions, to produce an electronic textbook designed to make the study of organic chemistry more engaging – and perhaps entertaining – for college students.

The e-book, Organic Chemistry: A Multimedia Approach, will include web-based applications, video, advanced animation software and other elements to help make the complex topic more accessible and understandable.

Professor of Chemistry David Shubert, Ph.D., with a page from his current e-textbook. Shubert recently signed a contract with Cengage Publishing to produce a web-based version of the book that will include video, animation, audio and interactive elements.

Shubert said the book will be based on a concept he developed for use in his Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 classes about 10 years ago. Shubert created a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation students could view on a computer that included slides, some animation, and links to the Internet and videos. Two years ago he converted it to a Flash presentation, so that he could include audio of his voiceover of the lecture, the same that students would hear in a class. Students can access the presentation on Blackboard, an online education content and communication application used by Shubert and other Newman faculty members.

“I created the piece because students are more accustomed to getting information through electronic media,” Shubert said. “The idea is they can experience the lecture material before they come to class, so that class-time can be devoted to working on problems and exercises.”

Shubert said he recognized that the book could be produced in a web-based format with better quality video, animation, audio and interactive elements, and sold to a wider audience. He sent a query letter proposing the idea to Cengage Learning, which publishes works under several imprints, including Brooks/Cole, Course Technology, Gale and others. The company responded with great interest in the project, and Shubert signed the contract May 24 with an anticipated publish date of 2015.

Shubert noted that the product will be a “native” electronic textbook.

“Many e-books are electronic version of books that were originally in hard copy form,” Shubert said. “This was born in an electronic environment.”

The new e-book will include videos that will be linked to multiple applications, including intelligent chemistry drawing software that will allow students to “enter” chemical structures when working on various problems and receive immediate feedback and prompting toward the correct answer. Students will also have access to interactive 3D models and integrated quizzing as they watch the video, with several student interface options.

In addition to the videos and other web-based multimedia presentations, Shubert said students will receive at least two other complementary, but different, explanations for every concept: a paper-based textbook, and a set of student lecture notes that correspond to the presentations in the videos but require students to fill in key information.

“In this way, students are engaged in listening, reading and writing as they watch the lecture video,” Shubert said. “This also provides them an outline of the essential learning objectives that include multiple examples and problems.”

Shubert said the final product will offer many benefits, because the technology will make it possible to engage a variety of learning styles and bring the student into an active learning mode.

“With this product, they will be able to watch interactive video-based lectures, work with virtual and real molecular models, access databases far more complete than any current textbook, and answer questions and receive immediate feedback using intelligent chemistry drawing software,” he said. “They can also see laboratory techniques before they go to lab, and understand how they relate to theoretical considerations discussed in class.”

Shubert said this multimedia approach, plus the use of relatively casual, common language and analogies to present complex ideas in terms students can understand, should help make organic chemistry more accessible to students. He added that he had one other motivation in creating the e-book.

“Organic chemistry really should be fun,” he said. “This book is intended to bring students past their initial fears through multimedia interactions, continual feedback and application, and simple and clear explanations, to reach an appreciation of organic chemistry for is organization and relevance.”