About IONiC - Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists

A Community of Practice for Improving Inorganic Chemical Education

    The field of inorganic chemistry is one of the broadest in chemistry, covering the entire Periodic Table of the Elements, yet is heavily specialized into subdisciplines.  For inorganic faculty with diverse teaching loads and deep yet narrow training within a subdiscipline, curricular innovation faces considerable barriers.  These are particularly formidable when faculty choose to incorporate topics outside of their comfort zone into lecture and laboratory courses.  Collaboration with colleagues from different subfields would be an obvious solution to this problem, but geographical and professional isolation (especially at small institutions) inhibits such collaborations.

    We seek to enhance the inorganic chemistry classroom and laboratory experience for students and faculty members through the development and growth of IONiC (Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists), a vibrant virtual 'community of practice.’  The community’s foundation will be a cyber-interface that facilitates collaborative development of learning materials and their dissemination to the wider inorganic community.  This website, VIPEr (Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource), will serve both as a repository and as a user-friendly platform for social networking tools that facilitate virtual collaboration and community building.  Using VIPEr, we will develop and disseminate best practices for teaching inorganic chemistry.  We, the leadership group (or pit-vipers), have several broad goals for the project:

Goal 1.  Share Knowledge and Develop Materials to Bring Current Research into the Classroom. 
Our site is based on the principle of visible teaching. We develop and share educational materials for inorganic chemistry by adapting activities that faculty are already using in their classrooms. VIPEr serves as a digital repository of teaching materials for inorganic chemistry and solicited contributions from the community. Our NSF-TUES funded faculty workshops develop educational materials at the forefront of inorganic chemistry to facilitate bringing current research into the classroom.
Goal 2.  Build Community
We develop, learn, and test synchronous and asynchronous technologies for communication and community building among faculty at geographically isolated institutions. We use these technologies for providing feedback (ratings, usability surveys, application notes) on materials development and facilitating discussion about activities related to the teaching and learning of inorganic chemistry. 
Goal 3. Test Materials and Technology in the Classroom and Assess Student Learning
We implement educational materials in the classroom, assess student learning, and use assessment results to refine subsequent course content. We test the use of synchronous technologies to network students between small classes and research groups from geographically separated campuses in joint learning activities and assess the role of virtual community-building on reducing barriers to curricular innovation.

    Through these interrelated goals, we will create new learning materials to bring current research into the classroom, develop faculty expertise, implement educational innovations in the classroom, and assess student achievement.   We hope that this project will (1) contribute to the knowledge base of inorganic chemistry teaching by developing, testing, and disseminating new inorganic learning materials; (2) contribute to the understanding of best practices for “virtual communities of practice” by assessing the impact of IONiC on the leadership group and other users; and (3) develop knowledge about the use of synchronous and asynchronous communication tools for faculty and students.  The evolution of IONiC and the unique blend of virtual and face-to-face networking it provides will serve as a model for other disciplines and groups of educators facing similar challenges and with similar goals.

Our project has been generously funded by NITLE, the NSF-CCLI program, the NSF-TUES program and the NSF-IUSE program.

Find out more about our NSF CCLI Grant 

Find out more about our NSF TUES Grant

Find out more about our NSF IUSE Grant

Email:  info@ionicviper.org

our youtube.com channel

Our mascot, Dude.

Our mascot, Dude. 

Suggested reading about us and our site:

1.  J. Chem. Educ. article on "Visible Teaching."

2. Academic commons article. (Come for the Content, Stay for the Community
Posted September 9th, 2009 by Ethan Benatan, Jezmynne Dene, Hilary Eppley, Margret Geselbracht, Elizabeth Jamieson, Adam Johnson, Barbara Reisner, Joanne Stewart, Lori Watson, B. Scott Williams)

3.  ConfChem article. (as far as we are aware, this is the only place this is currently available for download as part of a zip file). The page is archived on our site here.

4. Inorg. Chem. Viewpoint.

5. ACS Symp Series chapter on the start of the community.

6. Inorg. Chem. "Great Expectations" article, written by a subset of the Leadership council, begins a discussion that we hope will guide the teaching of inorganic chemistry now and in the future.

7. DivCHED CCCE newsletter article written by the Leadership council.

8. ACS Symp. Series chapter on the history of IONiC.

9. ACS Symp. Series chapter on building community.

10. ACS Symp. Series chapter on workshops.