Professors who are teaching college chemistry to undergraduates face particular hurdles. Students, especially non-majors, often expect that the subject is dry and difficult. Many are there to fulfill requirements for other programs, such as pre-med, with no real interest in chemical education or research. And then there are the various challenges associated with teaching digital natives—profs are contending with short-attention spans and constant digital distraction.

Last week, we brought together an expert panel at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco to discuss this very topic: how to engage millennials in the classroom. The four panellists all have experience teaching college chemistry to very different cross-sections of the student population at various schools.

The solution is to bring the subject to the device. Chemistry must be taught digitally to be relevant, as Dr. Ross explained: “If you’re not using digital, that will be the main divide with your students.”

Dr. McGregor addressed the issue of student devices in class head on, asserting that “if you can integrate the [student’s] device into the room, so that their need to be on it drives participation in the class, then [the device] shouldn’t be an issue.”

Still, many students and many professors still believe the only way of teaching college chemistry is the traditional way—with a chalkboard and a 50-minute talk. It’s hard, but rewarding, to push expectations, said Dr. McGregor.

Students come to class with different levels of study skills, motivation and background knowledge. Professor Newsome said that to reduce any deficits, she uses Top Hat to facilitate in-class group work that enables her students to pull one another up.

And whether a class is mainly millennial or Generation Z, full of budding Marie Curies or medics, everyone can agree that class time is worth more than sitting passively.

Bring modern chemistry teaching into your class. Engage your students and save them money at the same time—check out our General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry digital texts in the Top Hat Marketplace.

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