Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chemistry Videos – 3 years later

It has been three years since my first chemistry video tutorials went live on our video repository – VIUtube. I figure it’s time that I summarize the success we have seen with these resources:

Monthly Video Blog Completion – Reflections on the Project

Well I am wrapping up the monthly video blog project after completing its goal: 1 year of monthly videos aimed at increasing chemical and scientific literacy. All videos provided citations to the literature sources of the material, and creative commons attribution to any images used within. The videos were targeted at a high school audience, and I tried to represent the broadness of chemistry with various topics :


1. The Chemical World (an introduction to Chemistry as a Science) (

2. The Chemistry of Fireworks (

3. The Chemistry of Smell (

4. The Chemistry of Antioxidants (

5. The Chemistry of Bioluminescence (

6. The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (

7. 10 Moustached Chemists Who Changed the World (

8. The Chemistry of Lava Lamps (

9. The Chemistry of Vaccines (

10. The Chemistry Towards the Origin of Life (

11. Chemistry on Human Skin (

12. The Chemistry of Ocean Acidification (


As with all material I post on my blog, the videos are licensed under a creative commons licence, and anyone interested in using the videos may contact me for additional resources like the source embed codes. The videos are hosted on Vancouver Island University’s media repository ‘VIUtube’ and have been publicly available under my own channel “Key to Chemistry” and on this blog. Despite being located in a relatively low-traffic area of the internet (unlike YouTube), the videos have received approximately 2700 total views as of one day after posting the final video. I may decide to post them on YouTube, however, I initially did not want to post them there in part to avoid the commercialization of these videos (even if I am not making money off them, YouTube would) and also to avoid some of the nasty comments which were sure to be posted by some individuals.

Overall, I think the project was a great success. However, making these videos takes a great deal of time and effort! Any possible future videos will be posted as my schedule permits.


– Jessie Key, 12 June 2015


Open Education Resources for Chemistry

There are a lot of open education resources out there, but sometimes it is difficult to find decent quality ones at the post-secondary level for chemistry.  Here I will post links to some of the better places I have found for these resources, feel free to add some more that I may have missed in the comments.


UC Irvine Open Courseware (entire courses lecture videos available):

Merlot Chemistry Portal:

BC Campus Open Textbooks for Chemistry:

General chemistry virtual textbook (Stephen Lower, SFU):

Compound Interest (a blog which features creative commons licensed chemistry infographics etc.):

PhET online simulations: 

Itunes U has a wide variety of open education resources, including some for General and Organic Chemistry: 

Monthly Video Blog Progress Update

Hi Everyone,

Around 9 months ago I started to contribute monthly video blog posts, with the aim of showcasing interesting aspects of Chemistry, or highlighting the chemistry of phenomena from everyday life. I thought this would be a great way to increase scientific and chemical literacy, and the Chemical Institute of Canada  ( seemed to agree as they funded the purchase of my screen capture software (Camtasia Studio 8). It hasn’t always been easy finding the time to research and make these videos with a full teaching load, and service on several committees/councils at VIU, but I have produced 8 videos so far, one for every month except December 2014 (due to final exams and the holiday break).  To date the 8 videos have been viewed over 1300 times total, and one is incorporated into the open textbook: Introductory Chemistry – 1st Canadian Edition ( As a product of a smaller university, that has received no funding beyond the initial software purchase, no direct advertising, and is not seeking ad revenue by being listed on YouTube: I am counting this as a win.

Four more videos to go until the year-long project comes to completion!

– Jessie

Happy Birthday Open Textbook Project/My Adventures Adapting a Chemistry Textbook

This is probably a very long overdue blog post, but as I am currently procrastinating from/avoiding the giant pile of marking on my desk I thought I should put it out there in the blog-o-verse.


Today is the second birthday of the BC campus open textbook project (, and I have been involved with this project in a few different capacities. Avid readers of this blog may remember seeing a post about my experience reviewing an organic chemistry open textbook ( There I made some points about what a great thing open textbooks could be for students, and then subsequently complained of the quality of the open text I reviewed. Some issues with spelling/editing, diagram/figure quality and lack of instructor resources were among my main complaints. Naturally, while reviewing this text I was always thinking to myself “If I wrote the textbook, I would include this… or make sure my diagram had that…”


Earlier in 2014, the opportunity to adapt an introductory chemistry textbook into a general chemistry textbook (as part of the open textbook project) arose and I got the chance to put my thoughts into practice. At first I was a little overwhelmed at the scope of the project, and the short amount of time I was given to perform the adaptation. The introductory textbook was set at a relatively low level (the US liberal arts college “non-major” level, or perhaps an upgrading/basic education course).The reviews from other faculty across BC were accurate and detailed, pointing out many of the major deficiencies found in the original text. For this book  to be actually used by instructors in BC, I figured it needed two additional chapters written from scratch, a glossary, expansion of the appendix materials, almost all chemical structures in the organic chapter needed redrawing in proper bond-line format, and several chapter sections were needed in a couple other chapters. I also chose to add six of my existing video tutorials into the textbook, available for viewing directly in the electronic version or with a QR code link in the print copy.


After discussion with my BCcampus project manager Amanda, a schedule was set and I had myself a significant summer project. To accomplish these goals, I approached the problem in the following series of steps:


  1. For each chapter section/chapter I looked at 3-4 existing textbooks and identified what I thought were the common important concepts discussed.
  2. In Microsoft word I wrote up drafts of each chapter section, then pasted this into the PressBooks platform.
  3. Equations were typed out and put into PressBooks. This was the most problematic step! PressBooks uses a programming language known as LaTex to display mathematical equations, but I am no programmer. I ended up using a converter software to go from Microsoft word equations into LaTex, then imputing those into PressBooks with the help of Amanda. Let’s just say that the converter and PressBooks did not always play nice together, and both Amanda and I spent hours tweaking bits of code here and there.


  1. Figures and diagrams were either generated by myself using various softwares (from Microsoft paint, to ChemDraw Pro 13.0) or I scoured through creative commons image repositories ( for decent images I could use.


  1. I proofread my chapter sections, and they were then sent away for professional editing. Several weeks later I would receive an email from the editor, via the project manager, noting occasional mistakes and asking me to double check or correct them. As with most publications, it seemed formatting (particularly with the equations) was the most common mistake.


The finished product is now available for adoption, and can be found here ( I still feel there is room for improvement in many of the chapters which were untouched, and also additional resources like more end of chapter questions/a testbank, and an instructors powerpoint slide series would greatly help adoption of this resource. However, I feel I did the best I could to bring this text up to the level of a first year university general chemistry course with the time and resources available.


I am currently working with the BCcampus team as a Faculty Fellow (, to advise, promote and research open textbooks and open resources. I was really impressed with the rest of the Faculty Fellows, and look forward to working with them over the next year.