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Chemistry labAt UNC-Chapel Hill, over a third of all undergraduates take Chemistry 101 and 102. Before the laptop requirement, students spent valuable lab time manually recording information. Now, with laptops being utilized in the lab, students and instructors spend their time working together to analyze the data and draw meaningful conclusions.

In these introductory chemistry classes, students use discipline-specific software with user-friendly templates developed by UNC Chemistry instructors to gather and analyze their data. Students install the programs on their CCI laptops prior to starting their lab sessions, and the first lab of the semester serves as a tutorial. The instructor goes over the programs with students, teaching them how to generate graphs, tables, linear regressions and other essential math functions.

“These programs are straight-forward and easy for students to use. There is less time spent writing out the numbers and graphing by hand and more time learning,” says Lisa Volaric, Director of Undergraduate Chemistry Teaching Labs. “And the consistent machinery allows for less configuration errors of data.”

The remaining lab sessions concentrate on collecting information, doing experiments and analyzing data. Students use the configured and tested software to record information directly from the scientific instruments to their laptops. In addition to minimizing recording errors and saving valuable lab time, this allows students to view real-time images of their data graphs and immediately see if they are doing the experiment correctly.

Before bringing the laptops into the Chemistry lab, the analytic portion of the lab used to take place on students’ own time. They entered their data into a notebook by hand in the lab and then for homework they manually transcribed the information into Microsoft Excel for analysis. Now their data analysis takes place in the classroom and can be guided by their instructor. The only homework left is writing out their findings and the lab report.