Course Syllabs (CHEM 129A)

Fresno State, Fall 2018

Welcome to CHEM 128A, Organic Chemistry 1! This course will introduce you to one of the richest and most beautiful areas of modern chemistry: chemistry of carbon compounds. In CHEM 128A, we will learn skills that are essential for understanding modern biochemistry, medicine, and the chemical reactions related to life.

Important note: This course uses a different grading format to one that you might be used to. The details are explained in sections below. Read the syllabus carefully. It is nearly 5,000 words for a reason. Almost all questions about the course that you might ask can be answered by referencing the syllabus. If you are uncertain that you understand all rules and regulations, please contact me.


The syllabus is a live document which is regularly updated. This syllabus and schedule are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances. If you are absent from class, it is your responsibility to check on announcements made while you were absent. Changes and corrections are listed in the changelog below and will be announced on Blackboard and Slack.


Supplemental instruction

Office hours and instructor availability

I will be available for in-office consultations Fridays 2–4 pm. Walk-in visits are welcome but appointments get first priority. If Friday doesn’t fit your schedule, there are additional time slots throughout the week available for appointments. To sign up for an office hours appointment go to

Course materials and technology

What is CHEM 128A

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, it will become apparent that organic chemistry is central to understanding multiple other disciplines. Lectures and problems will often feature organic compounds and reactions in the context of biology, pharmacy, medicine, materials, and energy science.

The goal of this course is that students reach fluency in the concepts and skills of organic chemistry. This knowledge is essential for appreciating the world and preparing for future professional work. At the successful completion of this course you will be able to do the following:

How to achieve course goals

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.

In-class requirements

Two 75-minute meetings per week (Tuesday and Thursday) where we review, discuss, and practice concepts from the course. You’ll be working with your classmates to make sense of concepts and work on creative applications of those basics through group problem-solving sessions, 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 (2.5 hours per week).

Out-of-class requirements

Prior to the class meeting, students are required to work actively to get their first contact with new concepts by reading the textbook, watching videos, and completing all structured Skill Builder exercises along with the online assignments. Students are also expected to engage in online discussions and Q&A (10-–15 hours per week).

Supplemental Instruction

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is provided for all students who want to improve their understanding of the material taught in this course. SI sessions for this course are led by Dana Lichtenstein who has already mastered the course material and has been trained to facilitate group sessions where students can meet to compare class notes, review and discussimportant concepts, develop strategies for studying, and prepare for exams. The SI leader attends this class and communicates regularly with the instructor to ensure that accurate information is given. Attendance at SI sessions is free and voluntary for any student enrolled in this course. Students may attend as many times as they choose. A session schedule will be announced in the first few weeks of class. Learn more by watching this video:

Types of graded work

There are five primary kinds of assignments and tests that you will encounter in this course:

  1. Pre-class assignments. Online (WileyPLUS) assignments introducing you to new material and helping you learn the fundamentals of new material necessary for understanding harder concepts discussed in class. These assignments are graded either Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory on the basis of completeness and effort (not correctness).
  2. Online Homework. Additional problems done online (WileyPLUS) to build expertise in newly introduced concepts.
  3. Connections. Take-home assignments that explore organic chemistry applications involving real life examples from the lab and beyond. Connections are graded Satisfactory, Progresing, or Incomplete on correctness, clarity, and completeness.
  4. Learning Target Assessments (LTAs). Short quizzes over one of the 18 Learning Targets in the course. Each is graded Satisfactory or Progressing on the basis of correctness and completeness.
  5. Final Exam. Final examination composed of 70 multiple choice questions designed by experts from the American Chemical Society.

A complete listing of the criteria used to assign grades to these items is found in Appendix A, “Grading Standards”.

Pre-class assignments (WileyPLUS)

This class is designed according to a model in which pre-class readings, videos, and Skill Builder problems provide you with a structured introduction to the basic ideas of new material so that we can review, discuss, and practice concepts during in-class meetings. Completing the pre-class assignments serves two roles. First, it gives you an idea about the level of mastery you achieved from reading the textbook and watching videos. Second, it guides my decisions about what activities to plan and what concepts to focus on in the upcoming class meetings. Online homework give you a sense of what concepts you need to work on to be ready for the quiz.

Please note that for pre-class assignments correctness is not factored into the grade, so you should feel free to give your best effort on each question 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.

Deadlines for submitting pre-class assignments will be listed on WileyPLUS.

Online homework (WileyPLUS)

At the end of each Learning Target I will assign more problems on WileyPLUS. Online homework is graded using points, 1 point for each correct answer and 0 for incorrect. You can attempt homework problems multiple times to improve your score until the deadline. Deadlines for submitting online homework will be listed on WileyPLUS.

Learning targets

The content and the skills you will learn in the course are given in a list of 18 Learning Targets (LTs). The list is appended to the end of the syllabus. Nine (9) of these are Essential Learning Targets and represent the core skills, in which every student must show some competency to pass the course. The remaining 9 are Supplemental Learning Targets that focus on additional important skills from organic chemistry.

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 short quizzes, each addressing a single Learning Target. The quizzes, called Learning Target Assessments, or LTAs, are graded either satisfactory or progressing. What constitutes satisfactory or progressing work will be spelled out explicitly for each Learning Target and made known to you in advance.

Quizzes on all Essential Learning Targets (E1–E9) are scheduled during in-class meetings. It will be for you to decide when you are ready to attempt quizzes on Supplemental Learning Targets. There are certain restrictions in place to encourage/force you to maintain reasonable progress on your portfolio throughout the semester and not to procrastinate, and also to keep the grading workload small enough that I can get feedback to you quickly. Check section on Revisions and Reasessment below for details. A sample LTAs will be posted on Blackboard.

Other assessments

We will have a final exam on Thursday, December 20th, 3:30–5:30 PM which will focus on all the material covered throughout the semester.

You will also have opportunity to earn engagement credits (EC). An engagement credit will be awarded for participation in clicker questions, giving a particularly useful comment in an online discussion (Slack), or even asking an insightful question in class or during office hours. Some additional engagement credit opportunities may be announced in advance.

Research shows that student response systems (clickers) help students learn more and do better in the course. I have successfully used the student response system to gauge student learning and direct the flow of the lecture. Student polling will be used in almost every lecture and students must respond to at least 75% of questions on a particular day to earn EC for participation in the session.

How your course grade is determined

CHEM 128A uses a mastery-based grading system that is designed to provide you with control over the grading process. Your course grade in CHEM 128A will be determined by the quantity and quality of evidence you can provide that you have mastered the concepts of the course. At the beginning of the semester, you will be able to decide on the target grade you plan to earn for the course. This can be an “A”, “B”, or even a “C”, depending on your circumstance.

You will have multiple attempts to earn a satisfactory grade on most assignments. The grading system in this CHEM 128A course allows revisions and 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. Quiz retake policy is described in more detail below (see Course Policies section).

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 statistical or numerical calculations (a.k.a. grading on a curve). To earn a grade you need to accomplish all aspects of the grade. For reference, there are:

To earn an “A” accomplish all of the following:

To earn a “B”, accomplish all of the following:

To earn a “C”, accomplish all of the following:

To earn a “D”, accomplish all of the following:

Failing grade (F) is given if not all the requirements for a “D” are met.

Revision and reassessment

The grading system in our course insists that you show consistent excellence in all assignments in the course—outstanding work on quizzes, for example, does not “bring up” poor work on Connections. This can be challenging, but the course also provides a robust system of revision and reassessment for most graded tasks, so that if you aren’t happy with a grade on an assignment, you’ll have multiple chances to try again or fix any mistakes.

Revision of WileyPLUS assignments

When you submit WileyPLUS assignment, you receive instant feedback on which answers were right and which ones were wrong. You may reattempt any online homework set as many times as you want until the deadline for the set. After the deadline, no revision is allowed and your grade is final.

Revision of Connections

If you submit a lab and receive either a Progressing or Incomplete grade, you will receive instructor feedback on your work, and you can use the feedback to make corrections and then resubmit your work for regrading. You may submit up to one revision per week. Each Connection assignment has an initial deadline. Problems submitted before the initial deadline may be revised as many times as needed; problems submitted after that initial deadline may only be revised and resubmitted once after which the grade is final.

Revision of Learning Target Assessments (LTAs)

Quizzes for all Essential Learning Targets will happen during in-class meetings. Quizzes that receive a Progressing grade may be reattempted. Each additional attempt will cover the same material and have similar problems but will not be identical to past quizzes. I found that without some restriction, students tend to defer retaking LTAs until it’s too late. Therefore,

Retakes of LTAs done during office hours are subject to some additional rules:


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 10 tokens, and tokens can purchase any of the following:

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 successful 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.

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 the in introductory courses you have taken 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 is mostly that. To make sure we’re on the same page, first two class meetings will review topics you learned in General Chemistry how they tie into Organic Chemistry.

Expectations for professor

My primary responsibility is to create a learning environment where it’s safe to take risks and make mistakes, without shaming or judgment, and to give you feedback and guidance as you grow in your understanding of the subject. As my students, you have a right to expect from me:

If you perceive that I am falling short in any of these expectations, you have the right and responsibility to give constructive feedback that helps me improve. I will consider all reasonable suggestions in the course regarding my instruction or the course design.

Supplemental Instruction

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is provided for all students who want to improve their understanding of the material taught in this course. SI sessions are led by a student who has already mastered the course material and has been trained to facilitate group sessions where students can meet to compare class notes, review and discussimportant concepts, develop strategies for studying, and prepare for exams. The SI leader attends this class and communicates regularly with the instructor to ensure that accurate information is given. Attendance at SI sessions is free and voluntary for any student enrolled in this course. Students may attend as many times as they choose. A session schedule will be announced in the first few weeks of class. Learn more by watching this video:

Course policies

Technology issues when submitting work

WileyPLUS assignments and “Connections” are submitted electronically. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure these items are submitted on time, through any means necessary, even if technology issues arise. If a tech issue arises that prevents your being able to submit work on time, it is your responsibility to find another way to get it to me (for example, via an email attachment). Technology issues that are avoidable or resolved with a simple work-around will not be considered valid grounds for a deadline extension. For example, if you are trying to upload a Lab to Blackboard and Blackboard won’t accept the file, you should try again later or send the file as an email attachment until you can upload it successfully.

Academic Dishonesty

Your work on Learning Target Assessments must be done individually, and all collaboration is prohibited.

For most other assignments you are allowed and encouraged to work with others. However, the final product that you submit for feedback must be the result of your own efforts. Therefore you may share ideas and strategies with others, but collaboration on the actual finished product you submit is not allowed. Your work is expected to be the product of your own thinking, written and explained in your own words with no parts of the work copied from external sources such as books or websites, and done clearly enough in your own mind that you could explain the work from start to finish if asked. Specifically, this excludes:

Violation of this policy is considered “academic dishonesty” and carries with it strong punitive measures mandated by Fresno State, including possible automatic failure of the course or suspension from the university. For details, please see APM 235 by going to

You may feel tempted to academic dishonesty at some point in the semester. The work can be difficult, and many of you are under a lot of stress. If you are considering academic dishonesty, please STOP, take a breath, and remember that your classmates and I want you to succeed in the course. You are not alone, and you have a strong network in the class for getting help. The revision and resubmission policies mean that it’s OK to turn in work that isn’t perfect. There is no need to be academically dishonest! Just do your best on the work, and you’ll have the chance to revise it later.

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 for you.

Dropping the course

Students may drop classes using the on-line system through Thursday, September 13. The Drop/Withdrawal Form, signed by instructor and department chair, is needed to drop a course after that date. Withdrawals processed before 9/20 will not show on the official transcript. Serious and compelling drop period begins on September 21 and ends on November 20. 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.


Appendix A: Grading standards

WileyPLUS Skill Builder

Pre-class online assignments are graded either satisfactory (S) or unsatisfactory (U) and are graded on the basis of completeness, effort, and timeliness.

Mark Description
S Every item on the assignment has a response that represents a good-faith effort to answer correctly; and the work is submitted before the deadline.
U No work submitted; or work is submitted that is late, has at least one blank response, or at least one response that is not a serious attempt.

Online homework (WileyPLUS)

Online homework is graded using points. Typically, WileyPLUS problems are worth one point each. One point is awarded if the answer for the problem is correct (or in the case of multiple answers, all of them are correct), and zero points are awarded otherwise. In some multi-part problems, partial credit is awarded.

Learning Targets

Assessments of Learning Targets are graded either Satisfactory (S) or Progressing (P) using criteria spelled out individually for each target. Please see the list of Learning Targets below or on Blackboard for more details.


Connections assignments are graded either Satisfactory (S), Progressing (P), or Incomplete (I). The base criteria for all assignments are as follows (some may have additional criteria which will be explained withing the assignment):

Mark Description
S Understanding of the concepts is evident, although there may be a small number of mistakes in the work that do not significantly affect the overall reasoning. All solutions are backed up by work that is clearly shown and easy to read.
P Partial understanding of concepts is evident, and all parts of the solution have a good-faith attempt. But there are significant errors in computation, logic, or writing that affect the overall reasoning. The work should be revised.
I No work submitted or there are significant omissions in the work, such as parts of the solution left blank intentionally or essential parts of the reasoning behind the answers that are missing or unreadable. Not enough information to determine if the concepts are fully understood.