Author and lifelong educator Steven Forsey, a Chemistry Lecturer at the University of Waterloo, is a firm believer that creating content that engages and motivates students is essential for deeper learning.  

Written with an interactive-first approach, Forsey’s latest digital textbook, Organic Chemistry I & II, is perfectly engineered for a generation of learners that prefers to actively engage with the content, rather than passively reading and trying to absorb the material. 

We ask Dr. Forsey how he uses his latest digital, interactive textbook to increase student engagement.

Click here to learn more about Top Hat’s interactive digital textbooks, proven to drive academic success, wherever learning takes place.

Supporting the flipped classroom

Forsey is something of a pioneer in the world of active learning, having flipped his classroom in the late 1980s. Instead of lecturing, he wanted to use his class time for discussing complex course concepts and working through labs and problem-solving activities with students. To do this he created pre-tests and chemistry theory videos for students to consume beforehand, laying the groundwork for more productive class time.

This thinking is alive and well in his latest work. Forsey’s digital interactive Organic Chemistry textbook intersperses digital lecture videos with pre-lab quizzes and engaging learning activities. A longtime advocate of making students feel accountable for their learning, textbooks integrated into a learning platform gives Forsey a holistic view of how his students are performing in all areas of the course.

Keeping learning fresh

It’s a fact. Gen Z reads less than previous generations—and when they do, they’re used to engaging with content the same way they do on social media platforms. Taking advantage of  Top Hat’s interactive learning capabilities, Forsey has created an active reading experience using similar approaches, including explanatory graphics, videos, animations, and interactive activities. 

Chunking content into bite-size pieces and interspersing with videos and questions is just one of the reasons Forsey’s latest book appeals to today’s students. In fact, in his experience, students often end up spending just as much or more time consuming the content, whether watching a video or testing their understanding of the material as they go.

With a Top Hat digital interactive textbook, instructors can provide immediate feedback through autograded questions that provide actionable insights into student learning. Through 14 different types of questions embedded directly into the textbook, students can be tested on skills ranging from basic recall to complex skills like visualization.

Blending innovation with empathy

Forsey recognizes that his students are busy, so he wants to make sure all of his learning resources are available on mobile devices, so students can do their readings and complete homework assignments when it makes the most sense for them. “Some students told me they read their textbooks on their phones on their commutes and they can open their textbook whenever they have a spare moment to study. I love the convenience of an online textbook provides for students,” Forsey says.

When students come to his office hours, they show Forsey screenshots on their device of textbook questions they want to go over or chapters they are struggling with. Forsey likes that it has made helping students easier. This way, they can store their questions on their devices without the need for lugging around a heavy paper textbook.

As a committed educator, meeting students where they are means making an effort to be as present as possible. Forsey seeks out the tools that allow him to do just that. Through his interactive digital textbook, Forsey has up-to-the-minute insights on students’ progress and where they might be struggling. This way, he can tailor his lectures, email answers and office hours accordingly. “I firmly believe that what an instructor says and does can either cause stress and anxiety or provide an emotional boost to help students through the difficult parts of the course,” he says.  

Click here to learn more about Top Hat’s Organic Chemistry course and Dr. Forsey’s textbook, Organic Chemistry I & II.

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