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Physical Chemistry Virtual Lab
Alessandro Belletti, Renato Borromei e Gianluigi Ingletto
University of Parma
Downloadable software
Cooperative learning, Experiential learning
Fundamental Chemistry
The prerequisites
It is a product designed for students attending the early years of University and extended to high school students; being so high level, some basic concepts of chemistry (solutions, concentration, electrolytes) are needed to use it. By this, students can practice on these concepts to capture them further completely.

The contents
This program is a virtual laboratory that allows you to play some experiences:
- measurement of the vapor pressure of a pure liquid as a function of temperature
- determination of the composition of a binary mixture in equilibrium at constant pressure using refractometry measures
- conductivity Measurements of strong electrolytes
- determination of the dissociation constants of an acid (or base) using potentiometric measurements
- measurement of heat of combustion of an organic substance by operating at constant volume
- measurement of heat of reaction at constant pressure
- measurement of f.e.m. of a stack
Experiences are rather long and complex, but can also be partially used: for example, the experience named "Measures of conductivity of solutions of strong electrolytes" can be used only partly for the preparation of known solutions; for periods of dilution, you can instead continue correlating concentration and conductivity, and measuring the specific conductivity of an electrolyte.

The aims
To practice of laboratory activities without being present in a real laboratory. A virtual lab cannot substitute the real laboratory but it can help students to apply and remember chemical concepts that, otherwise, they consider as abstrat and difficult.

Task description
The student simulates the work in the laboratory by using a mouse to maneuver the equipment available on the bench, adding some reagents, leading to volume, etc..; he has to take appropriate measures and process the data obtained.

How to use it in class
Two examples are listed below:
1) At first, this resource can be used to simulate an experience not previously carried out in laboratory, then, the same experience can be repeated in laboratory and finally the two experiences can be compared and discussed with the related results.
2) An experience previously carried out in laboratory can be repeated in class with the virtual lab thus reasoning on the different or similar results.In any case it should be used collettively or, at most, in groups. If used individually by students, it should be only after a suitable training in class, under the guidance of the teacher.
Points of strength
- It provides laboratory equipment that are not always available
- It allows to repeat a measurement, a preparation or an experience, whenever wanted and without consuming materials

Points of weakness
- The dexterity needed to maneuver the instruments with the mouse is different than that needed to handle real instruments in laboratory.
- Virtual lab can be used as tool to integrate pratical experiences but not with the aim of replacing them. The experience in a real laboratory, with the possibility of observing phenomena as they actually occur, cannot be substituted by any existing virtual tool.

Scientific category
- Very reliable, it would be nice to have a more simplified version, that would be more suitable for high school students.

Pedagogic value
It is a good tool for collective experiences in class, for instance to complement / supplement experiments already carried out. The individual use by students should be allowed only after suitable training in class.
University of Genova

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2014.11.30

Posted by Mariusz Jarocki (Poland)

Message: 1. Is the teaching resource described useful for you? Why?
The program simulates a large class of chemical experiments like measurement of the vapor pressure of a pure liquid as a function of temperature or measurement of heat of reaction at constant pressure. The content that can be used rather at higher levels of chemical education. As I can say about other virtual-lab software I don\'t think it can really replace true, non-simulated experiments, and it can be used as a complementary material, especially in the conditions of the lack of real laboratory facilities.

2. Do you think it can increase the students’ interest toward chemistry? Why?
Yes, it can because of possibility of making experiments without any special prerequisites. Every executed experiment, simulated or not simulated, can increase the student\'s interest. This software can also be used by the student alone to discover some concepts so it affects to develop scientific approach to learning. The strong point of the software is self-describing character, affecting also at the next point.

3. Do you think it can help the students to understand better and faster? Why?
There any several advantages of simulated experiments in relation to real ones. I think about possibilities of repetitions, no risk of failures because of lack of manual skills etc. The individual use by students should be allowed only after suitable training in class, so it may not take significantly less time to study. The experiments are rather long and complex.

4. Do you think it propose an innovative didactic approach? Why?
It is hard to treat the tool as the main one in didactic process, it\'s rather some kind of support. I suppose we can tell about some innovation only in the context of greater methodology which uses the tool as one of many others.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.