Channeling Student Success in Organic Chemistry

November 16, 2018
Teaching & LearningJulia Winter

The end of the fall semester is rapidly approaching! So much rides on the organic chemistry final exam,and students are starting their last minute searches to find apps, tricks, and methods to prepare for the big study push.

There are many great resources out there. Our favorites, such as James Ashenhurst’s Master Organic Chemistry and Leah Fisch’s Leah4Sci, help students by building content similar to what they would see in textbooks – and adding features like interactive study halls, personal tutoring, and study guides. But there’s another great resource to add to the list!

We just discovered a new YouTube channel, Organic Chemistry with Melissa Maribel which uses high energy production techniques to transform chemistry instruction into engaging videos. Melissa’s first YouTube Channel for General Chemistry has over 80 videos and 25,000 followers.Below is one of her Organic Chemistry lessons.

We recently sat down with Melissa and discussed her remarkable story and the creative process she uses to produce her videos. Here are excerpts from that conversation with Melissa, a NextUp YouTube Creator.

What started you on this journey?

It really started off with me failing chemistry, as ridiculous as that may sound, but it started off with me being so frustrated in class and feeling, unfortunately, that I wasn't capable, and that I was dumb. I felt like this for quite some time. It's a common story that you hear with students. I was able to successfully teach it to myself. Then over the years, with 10 plus years of successfully tutoring students to help them go from Ds to As, I realized I needed to continue teaching and spread this to a greater audience. So that's kind of where YouTube came in to help me reach more students.

Your videos don't show any struggle. You have so much poise and confidence. As you went through that process was there an instructor that really changed it for you, or was it all on you?

Unfortunately, no, there wasn't a teacher. It was the opposite, with my college experience, I was actually discouraged and I was told to quit my major. By a lot of my teachers, by a lot of my counselors. I remember actually going to see different guidance counselors, and just asking them what am I doing wrong? How can I fix this? I wanted to be a dentist, that was my goal initially. The motivation became more of, “I know I'm not dumb, I'm going to prove them wrong.”

I also thought there has to be a different way to teach this. A lot of students don't even know how to ask questions because they're not asking the right questions, because they don't understand the material whatsoever. They don't know what they don't know.‍

What would you say to students who may not have the belief in themselves, what advice would you give them? Even though they're struggling in chemistry?

I challenge students not to focus on that one failure and then stop. Another thing that I remember asking myself was, would I truly be satisfied in walking away from my dream, from my passion? If I gave it my hundred percent and it still didn’t work out, only then would I walk away. For me, I knew that I hadn't given it my 100 percent just yet.

I look at it now and I love chemistry. I think it feels like a superpower sometimes to be able to actually understand this world.

Where do you get your inspiration for the production side of the YouTube channel?

If you notice a lot of the colors are feminine; they're bright, they're vibrant. I wanted to make it more playful. I think what was it when you're in elementary school or when you're in middle school, you see such color, that DIY feeling and sense of creativity. But then we go up in education, the classrooms were so dry. I think there should have more creativity there, because the concepts are harder to put together.

So that's essentially where we were trying to go with this new approach, and wanted to make it fun with this upbeat music and even me dancing around as the timer as they do practice problems. So students feel like I am doing the work with them.

Have you had a chance to play with Mechanisms?

When I was taking organic chemistry class, I thought if only I could touch it I could understand what was happening in each reaction. [With Mechanisms], it was amazing to be able to actually move one set of electrons to understand it in a much more detailed manner. When I was playing, I thought to myself, “Oh yes, it's the electrons, not the atom, that is actually moving.” That's going to help with a lot of errors that I've seen over the years for students. So that's phenomenal.

Here’s to the hope that students preparing for finals find that SUPER POWER that Melissa discovered in her career.

Co- Author

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