Now Presenting: Open Chemistry

About Open Chemistry

OpenChem is first and foremost to extend the benefit that we have seen since 2009 from open and free publication of individual chemistry courses to an entire curriculum. What MIT did ten years ago with its OpenCourseWare initiative was to plant the idea of making quality educational resources universally accessible. The MOOCs have laudably extended this approach by providing instructional paths through individual courses at scale. What UCI hopes to do with this initiative is to present a coherent, full curriculum by a top faculty. Today, a learner can sit with us in our lecture halls and follow four years' worth of chemistry core classes and electives. That is the key innovation: making a full undergraduate education's worth of classes available for immediate incorporation in part or in full by institutions of higher education or by individual professors

Frequently Asked Questions

Which courses are included in the UCI's OpenChem Initiative?

The selected courses include all required lecture courses that a UCI undergraduate needs for the Chemistry major. Additionally, a number of electives, including some graduate courses, are included. The full list is available here under the "Schedule of Courses" on the left. Each course is listed according to its position in a sample undergraduate path for Chemistry majors.

What about labs? Homework? Readings?

Chemistry is a laboratory science and chemistry majors at the University of California, Irvine have access to high-quality, physical laboratories. We are reliant on institutions that adopt part or all of OpenChem to provide these services. The listings of homework and readings that we provide may be from commercial providers, such as publishers. They are provided as a courtesy for those who wish to follow along. We will eventually include no- or low-cost options that include these as course resources for chemistry learners.

Why is UCI offering its Chemistry lectures for free?

There is both a history to this specific project with the filming of the first quarter of Organic Chemistry (Chem 51a) in 2009. That story is told here:

The lectures were posted to YouTube and became something of a hit. Because these lectures were so useful for UCI students who miss a class or want to review for the midterm or final, Professor Nowick became interested in publishing more of his classes. With the Internet and YouTube as the vehicle for publication, the additional cost of making available his classes to the entire world was close to zero. He soon realized that he was supporting a global community of learners and his enthusiasm translated to a departmental commitment in 2012 to publish the undergraduate curriculum through UCI's OpenCourseWare project.

Okay, but, really, why is it free?

Because in the openly licensed format (CC-BY-SA 3.0, attribution required, sharealike), UCI contributes to global chemistry education at no marginal cost to itself beyond the already completed filming. Our own students also benefit by being able to review presentations and because it is available on YouTube, we don't have to worry about maintaining it on course pages behind password protection. By making it open, another institution or professor can use some or all of the video presentations without even having to contact us for permission. So we are fulfilling the mission of a land-grant, public university effectively and efficiently.

UCI is a member of Coursera. Why aren't you offering these courses on one or another MOOC platforms?

We think that Coursera is a great platform, but it may not be the optimal platform for transfer of educational resources by other universities or community colleges. By publishing the video lectures with an open, Creative Commons license, another institution may incorporate one, two or all of the video lectures as may fit their needs. Furthermore, they don't have to ask permission. Permission is granted in advance through the license selection. Also, a learner can access these resources regardless of course dates.

Can I get a degree from UCI through OpenChem?

Sorry, but the answer is no. While our goal is to promote learning the subject of Chemistry, we only award degrees to matriculated students at the University of California, Irvine.

Can I get university credit for studying Chemistry through OpenChem?

It is possible that in the near future, these video lectures will be combined with labs and textbooks at other institutions, which may themselves award credit. We are in conversations with several companies and institutions that may want to use our course videos.

Will the video lectures be captioned?

Yes, we are currently looking for partners to accomplish the captioning. A particular difficulty with Chemistry and other fields is that automatic translation only goes so far and the rest has to be reviewed by someone with a thorough knowledge of Chemistry to avoid mis-transcription of similar names or words. Once the video lectures are captioned, we will provide a text index and a text search.

Can we provide feedback?

Yes, there is a page on our website for comments:

Are there other subjects that will follow OpenChem? Isn't Chemistry enough?

Seriously, the answer is yes. We are constantly in discussions with UCI schools and departments and are aware of other opportunities from subjects in which one or more courses may already have been filmed. Stay tuned for announcements on the OpenCourseWare website.

Are there license restrictions?

Yes. Some of the materials and resources mentioned are from commercial companies. The syllabus instructions on the course pages were written for UCI students. They are provided here to inform students and professors from other institutions of the ancillary materials used. Some are from commercial packages and can be purchased independently, but our mention of these resources does not constitute an endorsement. None of the commercial packages are available as part of this free resource and are not covered under the terms of our Creative Commons licenses for the video lectures.