Course Syllabs (CHEM 129A)

Fresno State, Fall 2017

Welcome to CHEM 128A, Organic Chemistry 1. This document contains all the information you need to know about the course. Your job is to read this document carefully in the first week of class and familiarize yourself with how the course works and maintain that familiarity throughout the semester. It is nearly 4,300 words for a reason. Almost all questions about the course that you might ask can be answered by referencing the syllabus.


The syllabus is a live document which is regularly updated. Changes and corrections are listed in the changelog below and will be announced on Blackboard and Piazza. It is your responsibility to check on announcements made online.


Course materials and technology

What is this course about

CHEM 128A is the first part of a two-semester sequence in organic chemistry, the chemistry of carbon-containing compounds. Topics in this course will be focused on the principles of bonding, structure, reactivity, and synthesis of organic materials. Also, a significant portion of this course will address the analytical techniques routinely used by organic chemists in their research. While learning these fundamental aspects of organic chemistry, I hope it will become apparent that this science is central to the practice and understanding of many other disciplines. Lectures and problems will often feature organic compounds and reactions in the context of biology, pharmacy, medicine, materials, and energy and fuel science.

What will you learn

Students who successfully complete the course should be able to (1) clearly communicate the structure and properties of organic molecules using common drawing and naming conventions; and (2) to be able to analyze chemical structures and reactions to make and defend predictions about chemical processes. Learning activities and assignments in this course are designed to help you achieve these two goals.

What are my expectations?

I want you to be successful in this course. I will do my utmost to help you do this, by creating and maintaining a learning environment based on challenge and support and giving my highest professional commitment to your success and well-being. But, I cannot achieve success for you. Success in college courses comes from cooperation with instructors, interaction with your classmates, and diligent effort throughout the semester. I like to compare successfull classroom interactions to interactions between players and coaches on a sports team. Players do the work and coaches make sure players do the work that helps players succeed.

To be successful in the course, you need to make sure you are always giving an effort to do the following:

There are many strategies to study Organic Chemistry. The hardest and one I don’t recommend is rote memorization. There will be a lot of new words, definitions, names, and structures that you will have to commit to memory. Memorizing everything, however, is nearly impossible because the amount of material that is covered increases dramatically as the semester progresses. Understanding of the trends, principles, connections, and logic of chemical transformation will give you better chances of success. I suggest you take a look recommendations and tips from students who took the class in the past.

My expectations about your general chemistry knowledge

Organic Chemistry is a hard course because it discusses chemistry from a different perspective than it is done in introductory courses you took so far. What you’re used to seeing in General Chemistry all the time: formulae, calculations, units, you will seldom see in this course. General Chemistry is to a large extent a course in quantitative thinking. I expect that you know how to calculate thermodynamic enthalpies and entropies if you have to. It is far more important to me, however, that you come to my class knowing the following things intuitively:

This is qualitative understanding of chemical phenomena and Organic Chemistry mostly that. I expect that you do. To make sure we’re on the same page, first two class meetings will focus on how things you learned in General Chemistry tie into Organic Chemistry.

What will you do to learn?

Learning happens by doing, not just by listening. So to reach the learning goals in this course, you’ll be doing a wide variety of active learning tasks both in and outside of class.

Outside of class. Before the class meeting, you will work actively to get your first contact with new concepts by reading the textbook, watching videos, and completing all structured Skill Builder Exercises. Then, you will put your best effort to complete the WileyPLUS assignments. Then, following class meetings, you’ll be working on problems that ask you to extend the basics by solving both theoretical and applied problems from the textbook.

In class. You’ll be working with you classmates to make sense of concepts and work on creative applications of those basics through group problem-solving sessions, presentations of solutions to the class, discussions driven by interactive polling activities, and more. All of the work you do in class is carefully designed to promote learning of the concepts of the course.

Learning targets and assessments

The content and the skills you will learn in the course are given in a list of 16 Learning Targets (LTs). The list is appended to the end of the syllabus. During the course, you’ll be expected to provide evidence that you can perform the tasks that are given in the Learning Targets by completing Learning Target Assessments (LTAs). These will be short quizzes, each addressing a single Learning Target. For example, the assessment for the Learning Target 1.4 (“I can use words and drawings to read and communicate stereochemical information”) may consist of questions that will ask you to demonstrate that skill.

Learning Target Assessments are graded either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. What constitutes satisfactory or unsatisfactory work will be spelled out explicitly for each Learning Target and made known to you in advance. See the section about the grading system for information on how to retake Learning Target assessment that is marked unsatisfactory.

Your mastery of basic skills will also be assessed through a comprehensive ACS exam given during finals week. The final exam is composed of 70 multiple choice questions designed by the American Chemical Society.

Pre-class assignments and engagement credits

Engagement in the course means preparing well for class and participating productively both in and outside of class. The more engaged you are in the class, the better you will learn the material; conversely, students who disengage and try to complete the course from a distance generally have a hard time succeeding.

Your level of engagement in the course will be measured by earning engagement credits. An engagement credit will be awarded for such accomplishments as completion of pre-class online assignments, participation in clicker questions, giving a particularly useful comment in an online discussion (Piazza) in between classes, or even asking an insightful question in class or during office hours. Some engagement credit opportunities may be announced in advance, but many will be unannounced, and you will need to be present in class and present online to earn them.

This class is designed according to flipped learning model. Pre-class readings, videos, and Skill Builder problems provide you with a structured introduction to the basic ideas of new material so that we don’t have to spend a lot of time in class doing lectures on this material. Completing the online assignments serves two roles. First, it gives you an idea what is the level of mastery you achieved thus far. Second, guides my decisions about what activities to plan and what concepts to focus on in the upcoming class meetings.

Pre-class assignments are graded satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and completion of a pre-class assignment package earns one engagement credit. Satisfactory if it meets the following criteria:

  1. All assignments (sometimes there will be multiple) is submitted before the deadline, which is 24 hours before the class meeting (2:00 pm Pacific). Submissions past this deadline will be automatically marked unsatisfactory.
  2. Every exercise has a response that shows a good-faith effort to be right. Submissions that have exercises where a good-faith effort to be right is not evident, for example, if the response is “I don’t know,” “I don’t understand,” answered with a semantically incorrect statement, or answered with a random guess, will be automatically marked unsatisfactory. If you are indeed stuck on a question, you are expected to give yourself enough advance time to ask a question about it in office hours, in group work with others, or on Piazza discussion board.

Please note that correctness is not factored into the grade, so you should feel free to give your best effort on each one without fear of being counted off for wrong answers. In fact, misconceptions about the material are part of what online assignments are set up to collect so we can work on them in class.

Participation in clicker questions

Research shows that student response systems (clickers) help students learn more and do better in the course. I will use the i>clicker student response system in class to assess your learning. Students must respond to at least 75% of questions on a particular day to earn participation in the session. Participation in at least 25% of sessions earns 1 EC, and each additional 5% of participation earns additional EC up to 15 EC for participation in 90% of sessions.

Grading system

CHEM 128A uses a points-free mastery-based grading system that is designed to provide you with control over the grading process, clear overview your progress toward a course grade, and a final course grade that truly reflects your actual mastery of course concepts. Completion of a learning unit will be followed by a short 10–15 min in-class quiz (typically at the beginning of the class period) that test your level of mastery.

Our grading system works as follows. At the beginning of the semester, you will be able to decide on the target grade you plan to earn for the course. This does not need to be an “A.” You’ll be asked to carefully consider your goals, skill set, life situation, academic needs, and so on before stating your target grade. For some students, a “B” or even a “C” is perfectly sufficient and realistic, relative to their situation.

Your graded work will be evaluated without using points. Instead, your work will be graded either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Whenever you submit work to be graded, I will employ my best professional judgment along with a clear list of specifications for categorizing that work. The specifications are listed at the end of the syllabus, and you should make yourself intimately familiar with that document. Each quiz will have clear explanation how to earn satisfactory mark.

The grade you earn at the end of the semester is determined by counting the number of items in each category that you complete at an acceptable level. There are no points involved and no statistical or numerical calculations (a.k.a. grading on a curve). To earn a grade you need to accomplish all aspects of the grade (see table below). For reference: there is a total of 15 LTAs, opportunity to earn at least 48 engagement credits (15 for clickers) and a final ACS exam (70 multiple choice questions).

To earn Accomplish the following
A Earn satisfactory on at least 13 LTs (including all “core”); and
  Earn 36 engagement credits; and
  Earn at least 50% on the final (ACS) exam
B Earn satisfactory on at least 11 LTs (including all “core”); and
  Earn 32 engagement credits; and
  Earn at least 40% on the final (ACS) exam
C Earn satisfactory on at least 9 LTs (including all “core”); and
  Earn 28 engagement credits; and
  Earn at least 30% on the final (ACS) exam
D Earn satisfactory on all “core” LTs; and
  Earn 24 engagement credits; and
  Earn at least 20% on the final (ACS) exam

You will have multiple attempts to pass LTAs

At the heart of the learning process in CHEM 128A is a system of revision of your work that will allow multiple attempts to demonstrate a satisfactory level of learning. Grades on LTAs are not final until the end of the semester and can be attempted again. However, some restrictions apply and are explained below.

There will be times set aside during the semester for you to make up LTAs for which you didn’t earn satisfactory mark. In-class make-ups are scheduled on 9/14 and 12/05. There will be additional make-up dates announced but will happen outside of class time. Make-ups will also be available during faculty consultation days (Dec. 7–8).

Second attempt to pass an LTA is free.1 A token must be spent on each subsequent attempt. Details on how to request a retake of an LTA will be presented on Blackboard.


Tokens are a “currency” in the course that you can use to purchase exceptions to some course rules, especially the rules for retakes. Each student begins the course with twelve tokens, and tokens can purchase any of the following:

Opportunities to earn more tokens may be made available during the semester.

Course policies

LTA make-up policy

If you know in advance that you will miss an LTA (first attempt), and have a valid reason that can be verified by a document (e.g. a doctor’s letter, or a letter from an athlete’s sports team coach), I will decide on an individual basis. Notify me as soon as you confirm that you will not be able to take an LTA and I will arrange an alternative date/time, and you will take it.

Dropping the course

Students may drop classes using the on-line system through Monday, September 12. Between September 13 and 19, the Drop/Withdrawal Form, signed by instructor and department chair is needed to drop a course but no record will be registered in student transcript. Serious and compelling drop period begins Tuesday, September 20 and ends on November 14. More details on Admissions web pages

A serious and compelling reason is defined as an unexpected condition that is not present prior to enrollment in the course that unexpectedly arises and interferes with a student’s ability to attend class meetings and/or complete course requirements. The reason must be acceptable to and verified by the instructor of record and the department chair. The condition must be stated in writing on the appropriate form. The student must provide documentation that substantiates the condition.

Failing or performing poorly in a class is not an acceptable “serious and compelling reason” within the University policy, nor is dissatisfaction with the subject matter, class or instructor.

University policies and disclaimers

In addition to course policies, you are expected to be familiar with Academic Regulations described in the [][University Catalog] as well as policies listed below.


This is a DISCOVERe course that incorporates the use of tablet technology both in and out of class to promote active learning. You are expected to use your mobile device for course related activities, including reading, note-taking, group discussions, polls, presentations, exams, and other classroom activities. Whether you are purchasing a tablet, leasing a tablet or using one you owned prior to taking this class, be sure you check this list of tablets approved for use in the DISCOVERe program to make sure that you have a tablet that meets the minimum specifications for the course.

Students can rent a tablet free of charge on a semester-by-semester basis. This rental program will be done through the DISCOVERe Hub. Click \href{][here} for more details.

Please take care of and keep your tablet safe. It is your responsibility to maintain your tablet throughout the course to fulfill the course requirements. You would be responsible for replacing the tablet should it become lost or is stolen.

Purchasing a warranty is suggested to offset the cost of a broken tablet. If the tablet is not covered under warranty, you would be responsible for replacing the tablet if it is damaged beyond use.

I am not required for providing technical assistance with your tablet or apps.

Technical Support

Fresno State is not responsible for maintenance, replacement, or repair of your tablet. It is your responsibility to \textbf{charge your tablet} and make sure it’s operational prior to each class. Most classes do not have sufficient outlets to charge your tablet during class. You must come to class with a fully charged tablet to ensure that you can complete all in-class activities. If you have questions about the performance of your tablet, you should make use of the DISCOVERe Hub (HML lower level). More details here:

  1. The condition is that you complete the self-reflection paper on time. More details to follow.