Ten years ago, a few professors had a question: what if chemical and biological engineering students and instructors could get free, in-depth, high-quality instruction on hundreds of subjects within the field any time they wanted?
They answered that question by developing the LearnChemE website and YouTube channel, which has gone on to support over 31 million views and downloads—at a rate of about five million a year—and over a hundred thousand YouTube subscribers. Ten years on, the founders of LearnChemE are celebrating its ongoing success and the awarding of a new National Science Foundation grant to grow the program.
NSF is providing an award of $299,998 to the LearnChemE project to develop new interactive self-study modules for the main topics in each of the three core chemical engineering courses—about 30 modules per course—and to measure the impact of these modules in student self-directed learning as part of “flipped classroom” courses or individual study.
“In our first year that we posted screencast videos on YouTube, we had 15,000 plays,” Professor Emeritus John Falconer, one of the platform’s founders said. “Last year we had over five million, and with the increased use of remote learning, we will have more than that this year. It has been particularly gratifying to meet undergraduates at other universities who have told us how valuable LearnChemE has been in their studies. Students indicated in comments on YouTube that they would not have passed some of their courses without LearnChemE.”
Professors John L. Falconer, Janet deGrazia, and Will Medlin created LearnChemE and many of its educational resources. Dr. Garret D. Nicodemus, Katherine P. McDaniel, Michael Holmberg, Audrey Schaiberger, Michelle L. Medlin and Kimberly R. Bourland have all made significant contributions to the platform. Most of the interactive simulations were prepared by Rachael Baumann and Neil Hendren.
Since the program’s inception, more than 20 faculty from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering and other universities have contributed additional content with the support of alumni and numerous students who processed the instructional materials for use on LearnChemE.
LearnChemE has received support from the National Science Foundation, the CU Engineering Excellence Fund, Chevron, Shell and Air Products, in addition to ongoing funding from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.