TERENA Networking Conference 2000    

A New Quality of Chemical Education System based on the World Wide Web

Thomas Engel and Johann Gasteiger, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany

Current educational approaches to chemistry primarily rely on the use of periodicals and direct teacher to student communication. With the exponential increase in chemical information it is important to transmit this information to people in the various disciplines that use chemistry, i.e., physicians, biologists, chemists, economists, lawyers, and not least pupils or students. Using the approaches mentioned above, it is rather difficult to efficiently transmit this information so that this diverse group can use it. Much of the information is repeated in many sources and still does not reach its intended audience. T he development of a central scientific knowledge base, which employs the flexibility of internet technologies has the potential to make the transfer of chemical information much more efficient.

These considerations serve as the basis for the Vernetztes Studium - Chemie (VS-C), which is financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The project is based on an education-oriented model ("Würzburger Model"), that was originally initiated by several German universities and the German Chemical Society (GDCh).

The concept of the project VS-C is to generate small packages, not only of chemical information (called knowledge-modules) that can be customized according to the requirements of the trainee (learn trajectory). These will then be made available via the World Wide Web. In order to visualize complex contexts or simulations, existing multimedia technologies will be used together with WWW-software explicitly developed for this task. The aim of the 16 groups participating in the project at German universities is to achieve an individual, interactive and explorative multimedia learning system.

The research team of Prof. Dr. Gasteiger in Erlangen is responsible for three subprojects of the VS-C:

  • The subproject Chemical Information contains, besides a tutorial, the topics "Access to Literature in Chemistry", "Usage of Databases", "Representation of Chemical Information", "Methods of Evaluating Data" and an Introduction to Knowledge-Based Systems.
  • The subproject Chemical Structures deals with the input, representation, and visualization of chemical structures and reactions. In this context it is necessary to develop methods for encoding structures and reactions, and to collect this information in a database. The collected data should be completely retrievable e.g., by substructure searching.
  • Chemistry for Students of Medicine is an interdisciplinary subproject combining several knowledge-domains such as medicine, biology, or physics with chemistry. It is partially important in these interdisciplinary modules, not to provide the trainees with excessive information of other disciplines.
The application of multimedia techniques in this project provides an opportunity to represent the material in a way that captivates the students and makes learning chemistry more fun.

Full Paper (HTML) - Slides (811KB)



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