Ryan is currently involved in several different research projects. Most of his work is currently focused on work with SEISMIC, an analysis of chemistry YouTube videos, and the 3DL4US project. I also have several previous research projects including the ChemSims, Texting, STEM retention projects, and BRAID. Success has required relying on many collaborators and quite a few student researchers.

3DL4US: This is large collaborative project looking at assessing the use of three-dimensional learning in STEM courses. Want more info? You can check out their much better website at:

ChemSims Logo

ChemSims: This project is a collaboration with Drs. Debbie Herrington and Jessie VandenPlas from GVSU. [Check out the project webpage.] Many students struggle with chemistry due to the inherent difficulty of visualizing phenomena that they cannot directly see, such as the interactions of atoms and molecules.  To help students make connections between this unseen (particulate) level and the macroscopic level that can be directly observed, educators have begun to develop tools such as simulations to model chemical concepts. Simulations allow students to manipulate variables and observe the outcomes of these manipulations on the particle behavior in various chemical systems. Such simulations are increasingly being incorporated into high school and college classrooms as they have been shown to positively impact students’ conceptual understanding of chemistry. However, the research also indicates that left on their own, students may misinterpret certain aspects of a simulation thus developing incorrect ideas. This is a particularly important consideration with the increased popularity of online, blended, and flipped classrooms that can use simulations as a tool to aid in independent student learning. A potential solution it to use screencasts, videos in which an expert initially demonstrates how to use a particular simulation, focusing students in on the key elements and helping them interpret the various aspects of the simulation. This project seeks to compare students’ guided use of simulations with watching an expert led screencast for developing understanding of key chemistry concepts. In both cases, students will work independently at home to complete an assignment. In the simulation case, students will complete a scaffolded assignment that guides them through interaction with the simulation to develop key chemistry concepts. A second group of matched students will complete the same assignment by watching a parallel screencast then using the simulation. Comparing students’ understanding of key chemistry concepts before and after completion of the assignments as well as differences in how students use the simulation vs. the screencast will facilitate identification of best practices in the use of simulations or screencasts outside of the classroom. Moreover, an iterative design process will allow for the development and dissemination of high quality, validated materials (including screencasts and scaffolded assignments) to support the use of a number of popular simulations.

Texting: How can we co-opt it for learning? This work with Dr. Debbie Herrington has been focused on helping students more consistently engage in best practices for learning. Check out this work in the Journal of Chemical Education and Canadian Journal of Chemistry.

Student retention in STEM: This project developed out of three NSF S-STEM grants. The primary role of these grants was to support students to achieving a STEM based career, however, it was also required that the students develop a cohort to increase their chance of success. As a result of our creation and implementation of the S-STEM program, we believed that the evaluation data collected could also be used for research purposes. Thus we have attempted to better understand the experiences of the over 90 S-STEM scholars to date. We have identified the strong impact that interactions with practicing scientists have on the students’ ability to visualize themselves as practicing scientists. Their interactions can also help alleviate student concerns and instill confidence by allowing students to embrace their uncertainty about career paths.

Past projects

Ryan has been involved in several past projects. Hopefully there will be longer descriptions available at some point. Several of the main projects include the NSF funded BRAID project (developing interdisciplinary connections in the sciences), exploration of student success (including gender gaps) in STEM courses, and curricular development within the general chemistry curriculum. Check out his publications.