Last Updated October 16, 2014
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Syllabus for CHM-151: General Chemistry I
(SUN#: CHM 1151)
Phoenix College (online Course)
(Section 21070 Fall Semester 2014)
Mr. Ken Costello
Phone: 480 202-2993 (cellphone #)
Office Hours: Since I only teach online, I don't have an office on campus; however, I check my email every day and throughout the day. I do make appointments to come to the campus to meet with students when needed.


A couple of years ago the department adopted a whole new textbook.  The new textbook:  "Chemistry: A Molecular Approach" 3rd Edition is the newest one in the bookstore.  It's probably around $200.  They also have study guides, solution manuals, and other supplemental books.  With all of these that could be around $500.  Don't spend your money on those extras.   I also allow the first and second editions of new textbook. The advantage of the older editions is that they are much cheaper.  If you bought the new one at the bookstore, you can return it for full refund during the first week of school (and perhaps a little longer). Don't tell them I'm letting you use some older versions.  They might get angry with me.  On Amazon, the new book is about $150.  They also have a Kindle version. also has some good deals on the first and second editions.
Here are some links that can help you search out the first and second edition of Tro's book.   If you order these online, try to find a seller that has an expedited delivery (about 3 business days) otherwise it could take a couple of weeks.
I did find some used copies of the loose leaf version of the first edition at Amazon for $15.
Here is a link to the hardback version of the first edition of Tro's "Chemistry: A Molecular Approach".  I see some at $9:
Here is the second edition in hardback.  They start around $20 and more.  Other CHM151 instructors are requiring the 2nd edition.
Here is the second edition for about $15 at  In this case, buying a used one is cheaper than renting it.
Good luck with textbook shopping.   If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.    You won't need the textbook for the first group of tutorials and quizzes.
First Edition
Second Edition
Third Edition
First edition of Tro's book
Chemistry textbook

Tro 3rd edition

Your instruction will not just come from the textbook. Over several years I have developed tutorials that cover much of the same material that is in the textbook. So you have both sources to learn from. The advantage of these online tutorials is that I can use many more images to make learning easier.
Chemistry 3 light logo

Chemistry is a vast subject that encompasses...

The chemicals that make up the galaxies...
   The makeup of the Earth...
      The natural and unnatural chemicals in the environment...

The carbon-based compounds that make up living things...
  And the oxygen-based compounds that make up the continents.

Chemistry is seen but not seen... It's like seeing a tree without ever seeing a cell from a leaf of a tree. Fortunately, our instruments lets us see the invisible.

In other words chemistry encompasses the world of all sizes, all shapes, and amazing behaviors.

Three areas emphasized in this class

1. Something not always covered in classes are tips that give you survival skills for the subject.

Learning a difficult subject is like encountering extreme environments. You have to know the pitfalls of being in the environment. So the pitfalls of learning chemistry will be explained along with the solutions.

2. Learn how to approach a chemistry topic as a blend of building blocks, force & energy, and mathematics. Chemistry can seem like a long list of separate concepts, but this approach ties them together. Also, dividing a chemistry topic into three areas of focus makes it easier to understand.
• The building blocks focus sees chemicals coming from simpler building blocks.
• Chemistry also involves force and energy. For example, attraction and repulsion of + & - charges guide the assembly of atoms and compounds.
• The third part of chemistry involves mathematics. The Earth represents the Metric system which is based on Earth measurements and water.

Chapters in the textbook and tutorials are always a blend of these three focus areas.

3. Chemistry uses a vast array of symbols. The lead characters in Da Vinci Code and National Treasure had to know the meaning of a lot of symbols in order to navigate through their adventure. Chemistry is just like that. It is an adventure equally mysterious, and you will succeed if you learn the symbols.


The official course competencies are listed on this district Web page:

I will cover these competencies in the course but weave them into the topics listed on home page. The competencies are not listed here because they are a little overwhelming to see all together. Also, a list of competencies makes chemistry seems boring, which it isn't.  I have also added a few more competencies that will help you be a smarter consumer and smarter chemistry student.


In a face-to- face class you would need to have skills using a scientific calculator in order to do calculations in class. Since this is online you don't need to do calculations in a classroom. So technically you don't need a scientific calculator. However, you still need to do calculations. I actually prefer students know how to do calculations with a spreadsheet program like Microsoft's Excel or with the free OpenOffice Calc program. A spreadsheet allows you to layout the problem in a organized fashion with labels. So it reinforces good problem solving habits while doing the math for you, assuming you set up the formulas correctly. In other words, you should have competency with a scientific calculator and spreadsheets.

In the past, quizzes were put up on Web pages and students sent their answer via email. This worked pretty well but it took awhile for students to get feedback on each of the answers.  Three years ago a better system was implemented. Students now do their quizzes online and get immediate feedback on their responses. The software allows for hints, explanations, and solutions to be given within the quiz. The software was also designed specifically for chemistry. So it allows students to write out chemical formulas and reactions quite easily. It even lets students draw molecules. So I am pleased that these online chemistry tools and instant feedback have made quiz taking a lot easier and more instructional.
student at computer
The software company that makes these online quizzes is called Sapling Learning. They have written specialized chemistry tools and quiz management software. They've also created a lot of pre-made questions and animations. Some textbook publishers offer similar online quizzing but you have to purchase a new textbook, which can be $200 or more. Getting an account with Sapling Learning is $40 and then you can use older versions of the textbook online that cost as little as $5 or $10. Sapling Learning is also more sophisticated than any of the textbook publisher's online quiz systems that we've seen. So Sapling Learning is a better and cheaper way to go.
Sapling Learning Logo

I like to test comprehension frequently rather than waiting for a major test. Most tutorials will have a quiz that immediately follows it. Quizzes not only test what was learned but have some extra activities to test your ability to learn more. There are also some online practice tests that can be done for extra credit.

The quizzes and assignments count for 60% of your grade. The mid-term exam and two final exams count for 40%. The mid-term exam had been done on-campus at the testing center but this semester, I am having you do it on Sapling Learning like the quizzes.  One of the two final exams is done online using the Sapling Learning system. The other final is done on-campus, at another agreed upon location, or as an oral final done over the telephone. Mid-term is worth 10% of final grade.  Online final is 10%, and "on-campus" final is 20%.  There will be study guides for the "on-campus" exams.

student with laptop
The pacing of this class is like a high powered trencher. It digs in and keeps on going. Trenching services are paid by the foot, so they move as fast as possible, but they can't just scratch the surface. That would be a waste of time. If they hit a rock, they do what is necessary to remove it so they can keeping digging along. This is how you have to approach this class. You have to dig in and chew up the material. If you hit a rock, use the learning skills taught in the Pitfalls of Learning to get unstuck. Progress has to be steady. There's no way you or a trencher machine can start off slow and then later just zip through all the material that has to be unearthed. Your work day for digging through chemistry is about 1 1/2 hours a day, 7 days a week, equaling about 10 hours a week.
Since we are on the analogy of trenching, your work in CHM130 or high school chemistry means you have already dug through quite a bit of chemistry. Hopefully, you will remember much of that so that you don't have to start back at the beginning. CHM151covers the basics, but only as a review rather than like teaching it the first time. That means we will be going pretty fast through the materials that are covered in CHM130. That gives us more time for the new material.
DEADLINES VS. TARGET DATES: Even though I do not have strict due dates, I do have target dates that give you a pacing that spreads out the learning. I like the course to be flexible to accommodate unforeseen circumstances or irregular schedules. However, if you get too far behind, I will prod you to catch up. If you do not communicate with me and are far behind, I may have to drop you from the course. At the 45th day of class, I am required to drop students who are not making much progress. I will try to warn you if it looks like I have to drop you, but I can't guarantee that.

All Maricopa Community College students are expected to be familiar with the Student Guide that explains the policies, procedures, and resources for students. A link to the home page for the Student Guides is below.
Besides student responsibilities, it has a wealth of other information, also.
If you have any special learning needs let me know. The web page has information on that as well.

In summary, I think this class is challenging but also rewarding at the same time.

Welcome to General Chemistry. Now, dive in and see what's there.

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