Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Instructor: David Yaron
Course: 09-105 Introduction to Modern Chemistry,
Chemistry Department, Mellon College of Science
Assessment: Assessing the Effectiveness of a Virtual Lab for Learning Chemistry


In teaching introductory chemistry, I have found that students have difficulty connecting conceptual and procedural knowledge, applying procedural knowledge, and interpreting the scientific outcomes in appropriate contexts. I wanted to create a virtual chemistry lab as a supplement to the physical chemistry lab in which students could make these connections and I could assess students’ application and problem-solving skills.


In the virtual chemistry lab, students can design and implement their own experiments and see representations of chemistry in virtual space that go beyond those possible in a physical lab. I observed students using the virtual lab. Students also completed paper-and-pencil exercises that they could connect to their experiments in the virtual lab.


My observations showed that using an elicit-confront-resolve educational strategy, implemented through hints and feedback in the virtual lab, was effective in supporting students’ ability to solve problems. I also learned that students find experimental design problems more difficult than text problems.


My observations have informed further revisions and developments of the virtual lab, which I am still using as a way to assess students’ application and problem-solving skills.

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