CH304K S2021

CH304K - Spring 2021

Chemistry in Context I

Unique: 51180 TTh 12:30 - 2pm on ZOOM


* synchonous means that "class" is at a specific time and we expect you to be in attendence


Dr. Paul McCord

office hours: see homepage to website

Teaching Assistant

Jimmy Wadman

office hours: see homepage to website

For ALL things pertaining to Zoom Meetings, please check Canvas. We authorize and schedule through Canvas for security reasons (University rules). Any booked meeting (class, exams, office hours, reviews, etc...) will be there and will show up on your Canvas Calendar as well.


chembook: Dr. McCord's FREE online textbook. It is not behind a paywall or login page - free and open. The chembook website has the chapters presented in the same order that we will cover them in class. Click the link and then save the bookmark in your browser.

What you also need

TI30xa image

Scientific Calculator: Although a good ol' TI-30Xa is shown here, you can use any decent scientific calculator. Make sure you know how to use it - especially how to punch in and handle scientific notation, exponents, and log functions. Add, substract, muliply, and divide are givens. You will use this calculator for both in-class work, homework, and exams.

Chemistry Course Content

CH304K will cover the following subjects which will be divided into four units or modules. Each unit of coverage will have a corresponding exam to go with it. Each exam will correspond to one or two chapters from Dr. McCord's online eBook - "Chembook".

Unit 1

1 - Fundamentals of Chemistry
2 - Atmosphere, Air, and Gases

Unit 2

3 - Radiation & Atomic Theory

Unit 3

4 - Bonding and Energy Transfer

Unit 4

5 - Fossil Fuels and Thermodynamics

please note that chapters 0 (stuff you already know) and 1 (fundamentals of chemistry) will always be "in play" on all exams

NOTE: The final exam will be a comprehensive exam that is an overview of all the material that was covered in units 1-4. Technically, the final exam is optional because you only need 4 exam scores for your average. The final exam is a safety net exam to allow you to drop one of the first four exams and count the final exam in its place.

Calculating your Overall Score

We are keeping the grading in the course rather simple. Your overall grade in the course will be determined by your averages in each of three categories: Exams, Homework, and Quizzes with the percentages as shown below for each of the three categories.

Exams = 85%

This will be the average of your top 4 exam scored out of the total of five exams (exams 1-4 and the final exam). Canvas will not drop your lowest exam of the five until the end of the semester. All your exams count (in canvas anyway) until then. Canvas will correctly show this average.

Homework = 10%

This will be your average of your homework scores. At least one score will be dropped in the average. The drop will occur at the end of the semester. Canvas will correctly show this average.

InstaPoll = 5%

This is really more of a participation score - although the assignments are graded and you do get scores. These are questions asked during class via InstaPoll in Canvas. Each DAY of class is a single score for your overall InstaPoll average. At the end of the semester I will drop your lowest 4 scores (days) and average the rest for your overall average in this category. Canvas will correctly show this at the end of the semester.

Grade Breaks

Course grades will be determined according to the following scale or cut-offs:

A 93.00
A- 90.00
B+ 87.00
B 83.00
B- 80.00
C+ 77.00
C 73.00
C- 70.00
D+ 67.00
D 63.00
D- 60.00
F < 60.00

Your score is calculated to the nearest 1/100th - that's 2 places PAST the decimal. So the only digit that is rounded "up" is the 1/1000th's digit.

Exam Schedule

Our four "regular" exams will be held on the following class days from 12:30pm - 2:00pm and administered through Canvas. The final exam is scheduled by the University and is set.

  • Exam 1 Thu 2/11
  • Exam 2 Thu 3/11
  • Exam 3 Thu 4/8
  • Exam 4 Thu 5/6
  • FINAL Wed 5/12 (9am-12n)

Exam Day/Time Conflicts

There should be very few conflicts with the exam times, since they are given during your regularly scheduled class time and there are no events that can even take place. You signed up for this class, please be available during the times that are published for this class.

IF, however, you do think you have a situation that requires you to miss the scheduled time, please contact Dr. McCord and/or Jimmy Wadman about the conflict and they will work with you to arrive at a workable solution. Please communicate with us in these difficult times. Communication is critical if you want to get a grade. Please do so ahead of time so that arrangements can be made. We do not give any make-up exams after the exam is made public and the answers are posted.

SSD Students

All SSD students need to realize that they technically "have a conflict" with the published times. For that reason, you will need to communicate with Dr. McCord and Jimmy Wadman about the times that can be made available for your canvas exams. They will try to communicate with you to make sure you get your extra time as documented in your SSD letter.


Each of the first four exams will cover new material from the chapters shown previously. The exams themselves will be administered online during our class time through Canvas. Please make a note of this: the exams are synchronous which means "at the same time" as our class. Login on exam day, fire up the zoom meeting for the exam, and click to start the exam in canvas. You'll have 1.5 hours to complete the exam (12:30pm - 2pm) and then Canvas will shut you out.

Final Exam

The Final Exam is a comprehensive exam which means that it will cover the major topics from all the material that we covered throughout the semester. Unlike the regular exams, it will be longer with about 40-50 questions. The final exam effectively allows you to drop your lowest regular exam and substitute the final into its place for your exam average. If you just do well on exams 1-4, you can skip the final exam and be done with the course after exam 4. The University determines the date and time of the exam which happens to be Wednesday, 5/12, from 9am to noon. Like all other exams, the exam will be delivered on Canvas and we will have a Zoom session going.

Work in the Class

"Class" is effectively a Zoom Meeting in these continuing and extreme COVID-19 times. You should login and try your best to pay attention. We will basically mute all microphone to keep the meeting as quiet as possible. We will keep the chat window open to communicate with Dr. McCord and Jimmy as the meeting proceeds. Dr. McCord will pause at times to look for questions to answer - this is effectively like an office hour. So feel free to bring questions you plan on asking to class.

Quizzes: In addition to the above in-class "listening" activities, Dr. McCord might have 3 to 4 "live" questions that you will answer via InstaPoll which is part of our Canvas account. Quizzes are short-lived, meaning they are due as soon as Dr. McCord ends the question - or, if the quiz is a "take home" quiz, you will have until the end of the day to complete it (11:59 PM). Many questions will be calculations and you will need to have your calculator available to assist you. All of the quizzes combine to make up your "quiz" portion of the course which is 5% of your overall grade.

Work Outside the Class

Work outside the class includes learning via the assigned reading of chembook and other online resources. The main "hands on" activity you will do outside of class is the homework (HW). There are two HWs per unit and they are available for about a week. HWs and are designed to help you test your knowledge of various concepts for the course well before the exam date. Both quantitative (calculations) and qualitative (conceptual) questions will be on the HWs. The HWs are a great way to test yourself as we move through the material. Some questions are easy while others will be much harder and push you to develop more sophisticated problem-solving skills (remember that QR flag?).

Canvas Policy on HW All HW assignments will be allowed two attempts max on canvas. Once the due date and time arrives, the assignment will close permanently and not reopen. If you do happen to get locked out of the HW after the due date, then study off the HW pdfs that I (Dr. McCord) post on our website - or another students canvas version. We will not reopen assignments for those that didn't at least open and attempt a submission. Remember, HW counts 10% - so don't blow it off. It is also the best way to get ready for the exams. We will drop at least one HW score for your overall average. Canvas will not show this drop until the end of the semester.


Don't cheat! We are doing everything we can to help you be successful in this course. There is no reason to cheat and doing so diminishes the entire learning experience. I'd go on but won't (for now). You're welcome.

Drop Date / Change of Status

The last day to drop the course is Monday, April 5, 2021. It is also the last day that you can change the grading status for the course to pass/fail. You should be able to do all of this online.

Does this course carry a FLAG?

Yes! Quantitative Reasoning QR

This course carries the Quantitative Reasoning flag. Quantitative Reasoning courses are designed to equip you with skills that are necessary for understanding the types of quantitative arguments you will regularly encounter in your adult and professional life. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from your use of quantitative skills to analyze real-world problems.

Students with Disabilities

Please notify me of any modification/adaptation you may require to accommodate a disability-related need. You will be requested to provide documentation to the Dean of Students' Office, in order that the most appropriate accommodations can be determined. Specialized services are available on campus through Services for Students with Disabilities. The official wording is this: The University of Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-6441 TTY or Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 512-471-6259,

Observance of Religious Holidays

Religious holy days sometimes conflict with class and examination schedules. It is the policy of The University of Texas at Austin that the student must notify each instructor at least fourteen days prior to the classes scheduled on dates he or she will be absent to observe a religious holy day. For religious holidays that fall within the first two weeks of the semester, the notice should be given on the first day of the semester. The student may not be penalized for these excused absences but the instructor may appropriately respond if the student fails to complete satisfactorily the missed assignment or examination within a reasonable time after the excused absence.

Sharing of Course Materials is Prohibited:

No materials used in this class, including, but not limited to, lecture hand-outs, videos, assessments (quizzes, exams, papers, projects, homework assignments), in-class materials, review sheets, and additional problem sets, may be shared online or with anyone outside of the class unless you have my explicit, written permission. Unauthorized sharing of materials promotes cheating. It is a violation of the University’s Student Honor Code and an act of academic dishonesty. I am well aware of the sites used for sharing materials, and any materials found online that are associated with you, or any suspected unauthorized sharing of materials, will be reported to Student Conduct and Academic Integrity in the Office of the Dean of Students. These reports can result in sanctions, including failure in the course and expulsion from the University.

Core Curriculum Requirements & Objectives

This course may be used to fulfill three hours of the natural science and technology (Part I or Part II) component of the university core curriculum and addresses the following four core objectives established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: communication skills, critical thinking skills, teamwork, and empirical and quantitative skills.

Communication Skills

Students will work in class, on homework and on exams to apply scientific model to explain empirical data as well as to use models to predict physical and chemical change. Students will be able to connect mathematical formulas and graphical representations to communicate scientific concepts.

Critical Thinking

Students are presented with many opportunities to use critical thinking skills to solve problems both in class via clicker response system and on graded homework assignments. These skills are assessed on the exams.


Students work in small groups in class on guided group activities designed to help the student come to a deeper understanding of the content and to "discover" chemical principles via the process of inquiry. Outside of class students are encouraged to continue working in groups on better understand homework assignments.

Quantitative Skills

Students are required to calculate answers based on their understanding of scientific laws and derived equations. These methods include skills in manipulating units, understanding and applying the concept of ratios, proportionality, rearranging algebraically to solve for a specified unknown, understanding and applying rates of change, interpreting equations using physical models. These skills are assessed on the exams.