Chemistry Programs Final Assessment Report and Implementation Plan

In accordance with the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP), this final assessment report provides a synthesis of the external evaluation and internal response and assessments of the undergraduate programs in Chemistry offered by the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. This report identifies the significant strengths of the programs, together with opportunities for program improvement and enhancement, and sets out and prioritizes the recommendations that have been selected for implementation. This report includes an Implementation Plan that identifies who will be responsible for approving the recommendations set out in the Final Assessment Report; who will be responsible for providing any resources entailed by those recommendations; any changes in organization, policy or governance that will be necessary to meet the recommendations and who will be responsible for acting on those recommendations; and timelines for acting on and monitoring the implementation of those recommendations

Summary of the Cyclical Program Review of the Undergraduate Chemistry Programs

In September 2012 the department submitted a self-study to the Director of the Office of Quality Assurance. For the two programs under review, the BSc in Chemistry and the Honours BSc in Chemistry, it contained the degree level expectations for these programs, an analytical assessment of the programs, course outlines, program-related data, survey data from the Office of Quality Assurance and appendices with sample examinations and CVs of faculty members. One arm’s-length external reviewer (Dr. Sylvain Robert, Professor of Chemistry and Biology, Université du Quebec `a Trois-Rivières) and an internal reviewer (Dr. R. Georges Sabat, Assistant Professor of Physics, RMC) were selected from a list of possible reviewers and approved by the Deans’ Council. They reviewed the self-study documentation and conducted a site visit to RMC November 28-30, 2012. The visit included interviews with a representative of the Vice-Principal (Academic), the Dean of the Faculty of Science, the Associate Dean of Science, Heads of the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Physics, the Chief Librarian, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students, graduates of RMC, and most members of the department. The reviewers toured the Library, several of the Chemistry laboratories and the already renovated first year Physics laboratory in Sawyer Module 2 as an example of the future state of the Chemistry laboratories in Sawyer Module 5, which were undergoing renovation in 2012-13. The reviewers submitted their report in May 2013, in which they described how the Chemistry programs meet the IQAP evaluation criteria and are consistent with RMC’s mission and academic priorities. The admission requirements, the recently revised curriculum, teaching and assessment were all appropriate. The English and French streams of the programs were found to be equivalent. The demands of the combined military and academic program were noted, as well as student views on the core curriculum in Arts. The undergraduate program was recently restructured to respond to faculty and staff reductions due to workforce adjustment. With an upcoming retirement, the area of environmental studies will need additional faculty. The new program was found to be viable and competitive with other Canadian university chemistry programs. Laboratory equipment and instruments are adequate. The number of laboratory hours has been increased to meet the Canadian Society of Chemistry requirements. Due to ongoing renovation at the time of the site visit, the quality of the physical space could not be adequately assessed. The reviewers found that the fourth year honours project is highly effective in preparing students for graduate studies. The following strengths and weaknesses were noted:

Strengths

  • Senior professors are excellent researchers, and younger professors are very promising.
  • Staff morale is high and there is a close relationship among staff members.
  • Strong graduate program is a positive influence on undergraduate program.
  • Class sizes are small.

Weaknesses

  • Students seem to be lacking some important mathematical skills.
  • Communication between faculty and students could be improved.

The Head of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, after consultation with faculty and staff in the department, submitted a response to the Reviewers’ Report in February 2013. The Interim Dean of the Faculty of Science submitted a response to the Reviewers’ Report and the Program’s Response in June 2014. Specific recommendations were discussed, and clarifications and corrections presented. Follow-up actions and timelines were included.

Summary of the Reviewers’ Recommendations with the Department’s and Dean’s Responses

Recommendations

For each recommendation, the section number in which it appears in the Reviewers’ Report is shown in parentheses.

  1. (17) Closer attention to coordinating military and academic activities could reduce high demands on students.
    The Department acknowledges this but the suggestion needs to be implemented at the College level. Professors have been flexible in providing extra tutorials for students. The Dean endorsed this response.
  2. (17) Junior students should be briefed on the reasons for the large number of Arts courses required for Science students.
    The Department notes that this could be implemented in the September orientation session. The Dean endorsed this response.
  3. (22) Design a contingency plan to maintain faculty representation in the field of environmental studies, and have the next hiring in the department in this field.
    The Department notes that a contingency plan was implemented during the last hiring process and three new professors in the department have expertise in environmental studies and biology. The Dean endorsed this response.
  4. (30) The physical space occupied by the Library is too small and this will negatively affect all programs at the College.
    The Department agrees and states that this needs to be addressed at the College level. The Dean endorsed this response and noted that plans are underway to renovate and expand the Library.
  5. (32-33) Improve mathematical preparation of students before they enter the program.
    The Department suggests that an additional Math course could be required for admission to RMC. The Dean noted that since the department response was written a Math Assist Program for first year Science and Engineering students has been implemented with the aim of better preparing students for later courses using mathematics.
  6. (32-33) Chemistry and Physics offer joint courses in some areas.
    The Department will study this recommendation to determine how it could be implemented. The Dean endorsed this response, but noted that timetable issues often arise when students from different programs attempt to take the same course. This will be discussed with the Physics department.
  7. (32-33) Identify a student representative for each year of study to improve communication between faculty and students.
    The Department replied that the class leader in each course could be asked to communicate any issue with the professors or chair of the program. The Dean endorsed this response, as there already is a class leader assigned for every course. However in some programs it would be desirable to have a representative for all students in a particular year.
  8. (34) Add a break in the middle of the semesters.
    The Department replied that this would be very beneficial for the students but would need to be implemented on a College-wide level. The Dean endorsed this response, and noted that there already is a Winter term break. A Fall term break was proposed after the response was written, but it was turned down by the students.
  9. (35) The department should coordinate with other departments on courses with similar content in order to optimize the use of resources.
    The Department has already optimized the overlap between courses given to Chemistry and Chemical Engineering students. Coordination with other departments could be implemented if the focus of the course is not field specific. The Dean endorsed this response, but again noted that timetable issues often arise when students from different programs attempt to take the same course.

Implementation Plan

Recommendation Proposed Follow-up Responsibility for Leading Follow-up Timeline for Addressing Recommendation
2. Brief junior students on reasons for Arts courses Include in Fall term orientation Department Head By Sept 2014
6. Offer joint courses with Physics where possible Consult with Physics Department Head By Nov 2014
7. Name student representatives for each year Choose students Department Head By Sept 2014
9. Coordinate with other departments on courses with similar content. Identify possible courses and consult with departments Department Head By Nov 2014

The Dean of Science, in consultation with the Department Head, is responsible for monitoring the Implementation Plan. The other recommendations have either already been considered or implemented, or involve College-level action.

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