It is important for students to be able to effectively communicate the results of their scientific work. This does not only inlcude written and oral communication, but the creation of appropriate representations of the complexes they have investigated. It is crucial that students learn how to draw molecules using electronic structure drawing programs, but site licenses for structure drawing programs can be prohibitive for some institutions.
Marvin suite is a software package from ChemAxon that is freely avaialble for educational institutions. It contains a structure drawing program (MarvinSketch) and a viewer (MarvinView), as well as tools that allow for the calculation of many molecular and spectroscopic properties of molecules. This is a very useful suite of programs that can be used by all students and faculty at an instituion once an Academic License is obtained.
A set of directions for drawing a coordination complex in MarvinSketch is also included as part of this learning object. These directions will guide the user as they draw the structure of a square-planar coordination complex, trans-[Ni(NCS)2(PMe3)2].
After following the instructions, students should be able to draw a chemical structure electronically using a chemical structure drawing program.
Once the structure in drawn in the program, a user would then be able to access the many other functions available in the software.
During the first week of our semester, lab sections are usually not held for courses so that student enrollment issues can be sorted out. In an advanced course such as Inorganic Chemistry, I want to take advantage of every week that I can so I use the first lab meeting time to have students learn how to use several software programs that they wil use over the course of the semester.
I post the download link and the license file for the software on the course LMS before the lab period and I ask the students to download and install the software. You should make sure that students update their Java installation before installing the Marvin suite. (I also place a link to the Java download site on the course LMS as well, but students tend to ignore it.) Aside from the Java issue, I have found that there are no real issues encountered by students when they install the software.
When we meet, I ask the students to follow the linked instructions to create a drawing of a coordination complex. Once they complete that successfully, I ask them to draw several other structures. I do not have any specific structures that I use, but I try to choose complexes with different geometries (octahedral, tetrahedral, square pyramidal, etc.) around the metal center.
The Marvin suite of programs provides the students with a number of useful tools, not just a structure drawing progam. Students use this to calculate or estimate a number of different things, such as the molecular mass, the elemental analysis, a mass spectrum, 1H and 13C NMR, and charge distribution.
To obtain a license file, the faculty member must log into the ChemAxon site and request an Academic License. Once approved, the instituion is allowed to use the software for 2 years and the license can be easily renewed when it expires.
As my students draw structures, I usually observe them and make suggestions to improve their drawings.
While I do no formal assessment of this activity, I have observed that students seem to learn how to use the program fairly quickly and then use it without much difficulty for the rest of the semester.