Chemistry professor develops interactive web pages to increase student success

Leon Borowski helps a student

Leon Borowski

Leon Borowski, a chemistry professor at Diablo Valley College, had one goal in mind when he applied for a sabbatical leave: to improve student success and retention in introductory and general chemistry.

So he took eight months off from teaching and implemented an ambitious, student success-oriented project. He produced an interactive web site that allows students to receive helpful feedback for calculations and individualized instruction from educators.

"Chemistry students have a low success rate," says Borowski. "This has bothered me since I started teaching. I would like to see it be much higher. My interactive instructional tools should help them make the grade."

Students can now utilize Borowski's web applications to input their lab data and calculated results, and receive immediate feedback. If their calculations are wrong, the application reports back to the students with a list of possible mistakes to consider correcting.

"By receiving this information before they turn in their formal lab write-up," states Borowski, "students will be more successful at correctly completing the lab assignment and gain a better understanding of the course material."

Borowski's database structure also allows the instruction material to be more personalized. "By using interactive web pages," he continues, "an individual problem set can be produced for each student having answers different than other students. This will make assigning homework more meaningful. No longer will a student be able to copy another student's answers and turn it in as representing his own work."

Another objective of Borowski's sabbatical was to create dynamic new web pages for the chemistry department. These pages will aid curriculum development, improve student support, and promote a virtual community for students and faculty alike.

"Many incoming students desiring to major in physical science or biology," says Borowski, "frequently start taking elective classes and do not understand the best path to complete required courses for transfer. The student pages will provide a suggested course of study, career guidance information, and course specific instructional material to aid students in mastering concepts and preparing for exams."

In looking back over those busy months, Borowski summarizes his sabbatical program with satisfaction. "My project increased my ability to incorporate technology into instruction, to individualize instruction, to elevate student achievement, and to promote a sense of community on campus."