Chemistry for our future (CFOF) school teacher fellows produce the Interactive Lab Primer - an online multimedia resource to support post-16 students' lab work

Students in a chemistry lab

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As part of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)-led initiative, Chemistry for our future (CFOF), funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the school teacher fellows based at the Universities of Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Sheffield have produced a multimedia resource - the Interactive Lab Primer - aimed at A-level chemistry students and first-year undergraduate chemists to help them with laboratory work. 

According to Sandy Wilkinson, school teacher fellow at the University of Birmingham, speaking at the second CFOF national conference at Aston University in July, 'Students enter university chemistry courses with a wide range of practical experience. Some students are particularly nervous, lacking confidence in working with laboratory equipment, others are just a bit rusty. Such problems are made worse by wordy practical manuals and conflicting advice from different demonstrators. As such many students struggle to see the connection between theory and practice, and valuable lessons are wasted'. 

In an attempt to address these problems the teacher fellows have produced the Interactive Lab Primer, which at the click of a button shows students 15 common laboratory techniques - eg chromatography, distillation, filtration, measuring melting points, volumetric analysis etc - together with the apparatus, video instructions and animations aimed at linking theory to practice. Health and safety issues, reference material as well as a glossary are included.

According to Wilkinson, the Interactive Lab Primer is ideally suited to: A-level teaching as a 'primer' before entry into degree-level chemistry; as part of an induction course to practical work, or during pre-laboratory sessions; and laboratory tutorials.