In 1999 Albert Korir came to the United States because he wanted better access to modern equipment for chemistry research. This summer, Dr. Korir, now a chemistry professor at Drury University, will return to his Kenyan homeland to teach students at Moi University using a hybrid flipped classroom model with the aid of content from the Analytical Sciences Digital Library (ASDL).
Research or teaching? Dr. Korir contemplated that question as he completed his graduate degree in chemistry at the University of Kansas. In Kenya, he had taught math and chemistry in high school for seven years. On the other hand, it was his quest for practical research that brought him to the U.S. His faculty mentor, Cynthia Larive, chemistry professor and now divisional dean at University of California-Riverside, suggested that he teach in a university where he could embrace both research and teaching.
Since joining the faculty at Drury in 2008, Dr. Korir indeed has embraced both research and teaching and has facilitated undergraduate research whenever possible. Having access to hands-on research is important to Dr. Korir who remembers being a student in Kenya without access to sophisticated research equipment.
“Because there were not enough instruments at home, a professor would demonstrate the use of the instruments, but the students wouldn’t get to use the equipment. That makes them timid,” Dr. Korir said. “I realized that the equipment had to be accessible. When the students are given access and encouraged, they develop useful scientific skills in a very short period of time.”
Last fall, Dr. Korir was selected among 60 African-born scholars for a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship. He will spend this summer paired with colleagues at Moi University in Kenya working on the project titled “Co-curriculum Development in Analytical Chemistry: Using Innovative Technology for Teaching in a Reverse, Flipped Class Model.” Projects supported by this fellowship are submitted by host universities in Africa and encompass a wide range of areas including ecotourism, computer science and mobile technology, nursing education, theater and music, among other areas.
While in Kenya, Dr. Korir will draw upon digital tools to teach students at Moi University, much like he does at Drury. Dr. Korir will use a hybrid model of a flipped classroom, introducing the concept slowly so as not to overwhelm the students. He is supportive of the flipped classroom because it allows students to “gain a deeper understanding of the material.” Since basic concepts are studied prior to class time, it allows professor and students to focus on application and analysis in class, he said.
Dr. Korir will use content from the Analytical Sciences Digital Library (ASDL), a collection of peer-reviewed, web-based materials pertinent to innovations in curricular development and supporting technical resources in analytical sciences. In addition, the online journal of the Analytical Sciences Digital Library (JASDL), publishes peer-reviewed online articles on courseware, labware, educational practices, and undergraduate research. Since his mentor, Prof. Larive, was one of the pioneers of the ASDL, Dr. Korir has been involved with the project since its early stages.
ASDL’s benefit to students, explained Dr. Korir, is that they can learn at their own pace with a tool that is organized intuitively. If there’s a section that they find difficult, they can replay the video and reread the content. Faculty also benefit from the digital library as content is often available in print-ready pdf and editable Microsoft Word formats.
“Faculty spend a lot of time developing material for classes. The digital library saves us from re-inventing the wheel,” said Dr. Korir. “We can spend more time interacting with students rather than sitting in our offices preparing materials.”
Planning the Future, Connecting with the Past
In addition to teaching, Dr. Korir is looking forward to discussing research with Colleagues at Moi University, and he hopes to establish opportunities for future collaboration. Also, he will explore possible study abroad opportunities in the region on Drury’s behalf.
Since leaving Kenya in 1999, Dr. Korir has not been home often. He last went two years ago for a few weeks and prior to that he had not visited in a decade. This time he will be there for 85 days, and Moi University is just over a half hour from where his family still lives.
“I’m planning to soak it in. Kenya has a lot to offer,” said Dr. Korir.