Introducing QCommons: Chemistry

After a long summer of programming and design, the first output of the QCommons research project is ready for the world.  I will blog more about QCommons in general, but today I’d like to tell you about QCommons: Chemistry, made in partnership with the Chemistry Education Digital Library.

In a nutshell, QCommons is a platform for assessment resources that promotes sharing and collaborative improvement.  It is open source and designed to support many different topic domains.  To track developments with QCommons please fill out the subscription form currently on the front page of the site.

QCommons: Chemistry is the first site built on the platform.  In developing sharing sites, there is a bootstrapping issue: people are unlikely to contribute to a site that doesn’t already offer something.  This makes starting out tough, but once it gets rolling the network effects help it grow faster and faster.  (Wikipedia being a prime example.)  Fortunately, the ChemEd DL and the Journal of Chemical Education have donated hundreds and hundreds of quality assessment items to get the ball rolling.  Anyone can come and browse through the items for ones useful in their formative or summative assessments.  All the items are from the JCE QBank and are used in General Chemistry courses at major universities. These were previously available only to vetted teachers, but now the questions (without the answers) are available to everyone.  (At this point, to see the answers you will still need to prove you are a teacher.  I welcome feedback on how to improve this.)

This is just the beginning.  There are many topic areas, new features and usability improvements to come.  In the spirit of Google’s long “beta” cycle, I’m releasing the site as it is to let people start using it and give feedback. It is ready to use and relatively bug free.  As I add new features I intend to keep it that way.  Just bear in mind that it’s a work in progress and any suggestions you have could strongly influence how it develops.

So again, all comments, criticisms and suggestions are welcome.  You can post them here on this blog or in the forums on the site.

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