UniServe Science News Volume 10 July 1998


3D Molecular Models Workshop Student Edition

Geoffrey Crisp and Simon Pyke
Department of Chemistry, The University of Adelaide

The CD contains a self-contained set of problems and answers on organic stereochemistry involving alkane conformation, R and S configuration, IUPAC nomenclature, E and Z configuration for alkenes, cis and trans configuration for disubstituted cycloalkanes and structural isomers for disubstituted benzene compounds.

The CD-ROM was reviewed on a Macintosh LC-630 (32 Mb RAM), a Macintosh 7300/200 (64 Mb RAM) and a Digital Venturis FX (Pentium 133 MHz, Windows 3.1, 32 Mb RAM). The package requires QuickTime (supplied on the CD) and can be run efficiently from the CD drive or loaded onto the Hard Disk.

The package tests concepts related to stereochemistry and nomenclature covered in a common first and second year organic syllabus. Detailed instructions on how to proceed through the package are provided and navigation within the program is straightforward. The application proceeds in a linear manner with no opportunity to return to previous problems within a set. The user cannot modify the package but can choose which set to do next. Minimal feedback is provided for incorrect answers. Students would find some questions relatively easy and progress to more difficult examples.

It is essential to read all of the instructions in the "Read about" file as some details on navigation and what to expect next are not intuitive when the application is running. The ball and stick models are adequate but not outstanding although by clicking on them a more detailed space filling graphic appears. It would be difficult to answer the questions if the user was not familiar with the short hand way of drawing chemical structures. The scoring system starts with a mark of 100% and deducts marks for incorrect answers. One problem is that it is not clear how many marks are being deducted for a wrong answer until the final score appears (the number of marks deducted for incorrect answers varied). The overall score is an average of the best score for each category of question.

The range of questions is comprehensive, although it is not clear on the initial run through the application what type of question was coming next. After completing a couple of question sets the pattern is repeated and this is no longer a problem.

Overall the package would be suitable as a revision or a diagnostic test for students who had a good knowledge of chemical structures and the concepts of structural and configurational isomers. The package does not appear to be directed at teaching these concepts and no stated objectives are provided with the package. There is software available for instructors for recording and collating student results but this was not reviewed.

3D Molecular Models Workshop Student Edition is available from:
Jacaranda Wiley
PO Box 1226
Milton, Qld 4064
Tel: (07) 3859 9755

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UniServe Science News Volume 10 July 1998

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