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Duke University & Coursera Online Course on Chemistry

Online education is significantly gaining popularity day by day among students of all ages. Around hundreds of universities and institutions have established partnership with Coursera, an education company that provides a platform to deliver online courses.

Duke University also engages thousands of students from all over the world to provide online education with Coursera.



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In January 2014, Duke University in collaboration with Coursera will start a free online course “Introduction to Chemistry”. This course is for students with limited background in chemistry. The goal of this course is to prepare students for their further studies in the chemistry needed for science, health and policy professions.

Topics cover during the course will be introduction to atoms, molecules, ions, the periodic table, stoichiometry, chemical reactions, bonding, thermo chemistry and gas laws.

This is a nine week course; during each week class will consist of short video lectures between 8 and 15 minutes in length. Students have to go throw lecture videos and set of problems requiring more synthesis of ideas and application of pre-existing algebra skills. There will also be homework exercises for practice that are not part of video lectures, one short writing assignment with peer review and a required mid-term and final exam.

Students who score an average of 70% or more on the foundational problem sets, writing assignment and exams will receive a signed statement of accomplishment. Students who score 85% marks or more will receive a signed statement of accomplishment with distinction.

Course Details

The course will start from 2nd January 2014 for the duration of 9 weeks. The course will demand 6-8 hours/week for study.

Course Syllabus

Week One: Introductions with an overview of scientific methods, scientific notation, measurements, units and unit conversions, using proper significant figures to indicate precision, general concepts in matter and energy including definitions of atoms, elements, molecules, and compounds, chemical formula stoichiometry, basic layout of the periodic table, endothermic and exothermic reactions, Coulomb’s law, and heat capacity.

Week Two: More study of atomic and molecular structure, information on the periodic table including some periodic trends, the subatomic particles most critical to chemical reaction and calculations, ions, isotopes, atomic and molecular mass, moles, introduction to ionic and covalent bonding concepts, and nomenclature including some polyatomic ions.

Week Three: Introduction to chemical composition calculations (compound stoichiometry); introduction to chemical reaction equations, including identifying and balancing simple acid-base, redox, dissolution, and precipitation reactions; more practice with gram/mole calculations.

Week Four: Reaction calculations, including limiting reagent, yield, and enthalpy changes; practice writing and balancing chemical reaction equations; stoichiometry practice and review. Work on writing assignment.

Week Five: No new topics this week. Complete mid-term exam and peer review process on writing assignment.

Week Six: Introduction to light, Bohr model of the hydrogen atom, atomic orbitals, electron configurations, valence versus core electrons, more information about periodicity.

Week Seven: Introduction to chemical bonding concepts including sigma and pi bonds, Lewis dot structures, resonance, formal charge, hybridization of the main group elements, introduction to molecular shapes.

Week Eight: Introduction to intermolecular forces, states of matter, phase changes and phase diagrams, ideal gas laws, kinetic molecular theory of gases, properties of solids and liquids.

Week Nine: Review solutions, review polarity, electrolytes, concentration units including molarity and mass percent, solubility, solubility product constant, and dilutions. Complete final exam.


Students should have study algebra in high school level and should have curiosity and willingness to learn this course.

Suggested Readings

Students can throw any introductory college general chemistry textbook for the proper understanding of the course. Students are recommended to learn from Introduction to Chemistry: Essentials by Nivaldo Tro.


After successfully completing this course student will receive a certificate signed by the instructor.

Course Instructor

Prof. Dorian A Canelas is teaching introductory and organic chemistry classes for more than a decade by using online platforms. She completed her BS Degree in Chemistry in 1993 from Northeastern University in Boston, MA and a PhD in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.