Case study: using Reference Modules in the classroom

In the case study below Professor Colin F. Poole, Subject Editor for the Reference Module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering shares his experiences using reference module content in his classroom over the past year.

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Principles of Instrumental Analysis is an advanced undergraduate course taken by approximately 20 chemistry majors at Wayne State University during the Fall semester of each academic year. I piloted the CMSE reference module on ScienceDirect as the primary source of teaching and assigned reading materials for this class in Fall 2014 to gage student learning and outcomes with a view to adopting this source for future classes.


I have taught this class for a number of years and have experienced difficulty in providing students with appropriate, up-to-date, and relevant information. Textbooks we have recommended in previous years are expensive (> $300), updated at infrequent intervals, and then only partially. At least half the course material covered in this class was out of date and presented a problem for both myself as the teacher as well as for my students.


When I taught using the materials in the Reference Module instead of the traditional textbook, I was confident my students were accessing content that is in touch with contemporary practice. The module was able to provide comprehensive coverage of the course material with the flexibility to direct students to tutorials, targeted reviews, and specific applications at a level suitable for their needs.

I was able to select and recommend just the material that they were required to cover in the course and each article was time stamped and certified to be up-to-date. The experiment in using the CMSE modules to teach my instrumental analysis class was a success. The modules contain more information than the students sometimes require but this is easily handled by directing them to the sections they need to understand. The level seemed generally about right for advanced undergraduate courses. I will use the same approach for the Fall 2015 semester.

Contributed by:

Professor Colin F. Poole Wayne State University, USA

Subject Editor, Analytical Science and Chemometrics, for the Reference Module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering