UTS has been offering on-campus short courses for a long time, but now many more short courses are being offered online. So, why do we have short courses, and how are they made? Let’s take a look at the recently released Drivers of Chemical Reactions, an online short course developed by the Science faculty in collaboration with the Postgraduate Learning Design (PGLD) team.

But first, what exactly is a short course?

Short courses are bite-sized, professional development courses that equip learners with industry-relevant skills, tools and knowledge. They’re offered wholly online, on-campus or in a blended format.

Participating in short courses often contributes to Continuing Professional Development (CPD), which helps ensure qualifications remain relevant and up to date. Professionals in some fields must complete mandatory CPD requirements in order to maintain their registration. For others it is entirely discretionary.

Short courses are also a great opportunity to develop products that capitalise on the specialist or niche areas of a faculty that might not be suitable for micros or award courses. In contrast to microcredentials, short courses don’t require assessment or any particular volume of learning or AQF level, and can be tailored to the needs of the participants.

Drivers of Chemical Reactions

The first in a series of eight new short courses from the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Drivers of Chemical Reactions is designed for current or aspiring chemistry teachers looking to upskill in the NSW Chemistry syllabus. The course was developed through a collaborative co-design process with Morgan Philp, Scholarly Teaching Fellow at UTS, and the PGLD team.

Our objective for this course was to make chemistry concepts fun and engaging. We wanted to give learners the confidence to address the needs of their students, discover connections between topics and acquire the tools to extend the learning of more capable students.  

Some of the course’s key features include:

  • Various at home (or school) experiments using everyday materials to bring concepts to life
  • Opportunities for chemistry teachers to share their knowledge and experience with colleagues via polling, discussions and noticeboard tools like Padlet
  • Step-by-step, media rich sequences that scaffold the learning of complex scientific concepts through a pathway of increasingly complex, yet engaging and easily understood combinations of text, animations and activities
  • ‘Extend your Thinking’ pages filled with additional concepts, challenges and materials for those wanting more
  • Interactive visualisations of chemical formulae that help learners with understanding and recall

Let’s now look at how these features are used to scaffold learners through a complex sequence to understand and apply Hess’s Law. In this first example, we visualise how sulphur dioxide from a power plant reacts with oxygen in the air to form acid rain.

After they’ve seen the visualisation they are given the chemical equation that shows how Hess’s Law is calculated.

This next example reinforces the same concept and calculation by visualising a reaction between carbon monoxide and nitric oxide formed in the process of combustion. And again they are shown the full calculation.

The learner then applies Hess’s Law to determine the enthalpy change of a reaction involving the combustion of an alternative automobile fuel in a final knowledge check activity. By the end of the sequence, the learner is able to apply Hess’s Law to simple reactions and quantify the enthalpy change within.

This type of sequence is the primary way complex chemical reactions and calculations are presented throughout the course making for a fun, engaging and accessible learning experience.

Watch this space for the next course in this series, Applying Chemical Ideas. To browse the current range of over 150 short courses currently offered by UTS, check out UTS Open.

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