DOI: 10.1515/cti-2022-0040 ISSN:

Supporting first-year students in learning molecular orbital theory through a digital learning unit

David Johannes Hauck, Andreas Steffen, Insa Melle
  • Education
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)


A large number of chemistry students drop out of their studies, often because of high requirements for content knowledge. Quantum chemical models of atomic bonding such as molecular orbital (MO) theory are particularly challenging. We aimed to develop an intervention on MO theory based on the Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning framework. First, students work independently with interactive learning videos. Then, they create concept maps about core concepts of MO theory. In this paper, we present the evaluation of this intervention in terms of content knowledge, considering person-specific characteristics. Additionally, we compare three different treatment groups with varying materials and group arrangements, and prospective chemistry teachers with other first-year students. Our results show that students can answer single-choice questions well with the prior knowledge from their first-year chemistry course. Answering open-ended questions is more difficult. Nevertheless, they can improve significantly in both categories by working with the learning videos; creating concept maps does not lead to significant content knowledge changes. There are also no significant differences between the three treatment groups, or between teacher students and other chemistry freshmen. Regarding prior knowledge, differences depending on gender and school-leaving grades can be measured, whereas the choice of courses in school has no effect.

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