Submissions/The LearnChemistry wiki: Using MediaWiki to build a comprehensive education resource

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This is a rejected submission for Wikimania 2012.

Submission no.
Title of the submission
The LearnChemistry wiki: Using MediaWiki to build a comprehensive chemical education resource
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Martin A. Walker
E-mail address
Country of origin
UK (living in the US)
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
State University of New York at Potsdam
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)
In 2012, the UK's Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) recently launched its education website, LearnChemistry, which includes the LearnChemistry wiki to allow educators to collaborate and share content under a Creative Commons License. The site includes substance pages, quizzes, experiments and project pages, as well as several unique features that make it a valuable resource for both teachers and students.
RSC hosts an open-access chemical substance database, ChemSpider, which contains over 20 million chemical compounds. This is used to provide data for over 2000 wiki pages on common substances, via a mashup of ChemSpider and Wikipedia. These pages are integrated into other pages (such as lab experiments) and they deliver the basic information a chemistry student typically needs, such as melting point, and links to external resources such as infrared spectra.
A developer at the RSC, Dr. Aileen Day, wrote a new MediaWiki extension to allow chemical structures to be input and read using Ketcher, a Javascript structure drawing interface. This in turn is integrated with the official open standard for chemical structure representation, the InChI, to allow structures to be compared. The extension allows the user to draw a chemical structure and search for content containing the structure, such as a substance page. Most importantly, organic chemistry quizzes now work at a higher level of learning; they require the student to draw the answer from scratch, rather than simply selecting a multiple choice response.
The MediaWiki Quiz extension (used on Wikiversity) is also heavily used, to provide students with a variety of quizzes. To encourage educators to contribute their own quizzes, this has been combined with the MediaWiki Form extension to allow the user to enter quiz questions via a simple input form instead of using wiki syntax. Teachers can also use a form to pick from a selection of questions and build a custom quiz. Although the Form extension is tagged as "experimental" and it uses some esoteric syntax, it has proven quite reliable and useful for building quiz pages.
A collection of around 120 laboratory experiments enhances the value of the site considerably for teachers. There are three types of content - summary pages, teacher notes and student procedures. These are enriched using substance page links and videos, and the Creative Commons License allows teachers to print off copies for use by students in the school or university lab. Other resources include collaborative project pages, which utilize the power of the wiki to let students share data in real time so that they can compare results from different groups (hopefully even at different schools!). There are tutorial pages which can be interactive, containing activities such as quizzes to reinforce learning of concepts.
It is hoped that this site will become a well-used educational resource for chemistry, and that some of the methods and lessons learned may be applied in other MediaWiki projects such as Wikiversity.
  • WikiCulture and Community; Research, Analysis, and Education
Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
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Slides or further information (optional)
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  1. ChemConnector --ChemConnector (talk) 03:21, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Valid entry (talk) 01:17, 22 March 2012 (UTC) if it doesn't collide with my presentation time