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The ChemCollective >> Instructors >> Create Activities

Modifying and creating activities

Many of the virtual lab activities on our website were created for use in specific classrooms. If you have an idea for an activity that you would like to use with your students, please and we will create it for you. In addition, if you would like to modify any of our current activities for your classroom, we would be happy to to this for you. If you plan on creating many problems, you may want to check out our authoring tool below.

The activity creation tools on this site enable you to, for example, easily alter the chemicals in a Virtual Lab experiment or activity or to combine an activity with real-world scenarios to put introductory chemistry concepts in engaging contexts. An example is our Mission Critical Chemistry activity, which uses a rocket simulation and brief video clips with an interesting thermochemistry problem.

Capabilities of the Virtual Lab Authoring Tool
Options for getting started
Options for exploring new types of activities
Contribute an activity
Download the VL Authoring Tool


Capabilities of the Virtual Lab Authoring Tool

The Virtual Lab Authoring Tool allows you to modify an existing activity or create an entirely new one. This tool allows you to:

  • Choose chemical reagents from the default stockroom or create new ones.
  • Select the types of information and instruments available to students (species viewer, pH meter ) For example, if you want students to identify an unknown chemical, you can turn off the Species Viewer so they can't see the chemical species in the beaker, which would give the identity away.
  • Control the level of precision needed for the laboratory techniques, to either allow students to quickly create chemical solutions (as in some forms of homework) or require them to use proper lab techniques (as in a pre-lab activity).
  • Write a problem overview and instructions that students can read online or print before they begin.

At any time, you can preview how the assignment will appear to your students.


Options for getting started

You can view a tutorial that discusses steps you may want to take before using the Virtual Lab Authoring Tool, e.g. write up the text of the problem, make a list of the chemicals, and identify a textbook or reference book with the needed parameters (molecular weight, density, standard enthalpy of formation, standard entropy, and standard state) for each chemical species in your problem. When all this is done, open the Virtual Lab Authoring Tool and start creating.

You might want to start by viewing the codes for several sample activities currently included in the collection:

  • designing a solution that will have a particular set of properties
  • designing an experiment to determine a reaction's stoichiometry
  • measuring heat of reaction
  • determining the pKa of an unknown acid

More information about the Authoring Tool and a copy for downloading is available here


Options for exploring new types of activities

You can design Virtual Lab activities that use any chemicals for which you can provide the following parameters:

  • molecular weight
  • density
  • standard enthalpy of formation
  • standard entropy
  • standard state (liquid, gas, or solid)

These can be found in textbooks or chemistry handbooks for most chemical species, so there are few constraints on the atoms, ions, or compounds you can use. In addition, you can invent new compounds or borrow commercial products for your activities. Coffee and Jello are used in two of the currently available activities; new oxidants and reductants have been created (virtually) for developing improved fuels for a Mission to Mars activity.


Contribute an activity

If you are happy with the results you get in using your learning activity with students, we encourage you to so that we can share your activity and experience with other educators in the ChemCollective community.



   Page Last Updated: 02.23.2010