Welcome to Chem 211 Introductory Organic/Biochemistry Fall Semester

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This Course (crn 70345) is Blended (Part Online and Part In-Person)

The lecture portion of this class will be partially online, and partially on campus. The lab portion of this class will be on campus.

This welcome letter is designed to ensure that you enter the course prepared to begin learning, and to provide preview of some course policies.  Full course policies will be available in the course syllabus which will be available to you when the course is opened no later than the first day of courses. This welcome letter is subject to change before classes; last updated 4/5/23.

Instructor Information

Dr. Alexandra Kahane   

If you have any questions about the course before the semester starts, feel free to contact me via email: akahane@cuesta.edu  

Office Hours during the semester for helping students: to be determined, and by appointment


Welcome to Chem 211 Introductory Organic/Biochemistry! I can’t wait to share my favorite part of chemistry with you.

In this course, you will learn about carbon-containing molecules, and their roles in living systems.  The lab portion will allow you to explore the course topics by performing experiments, making observations, and drawing conclusions from the data you collect in the hands-on labs.

Official Course Description: Presents a survey of organic and biochemistry. Intended primarily for nursing, allied health, agriculture, and some biology majors. Topics include the classification, structure, and reactions of organic molecules as well as biological chemistry as it applies to living systems. Laboratory topics include separation techniques, characterization of organic molecules, reactions of organic and biological compounds. Prerequisite: CHEM 200 (formerly CHEM 210FL) or equivalent.

Required Student Availability

This course requires students to be in-person on campus Wednesdays 11:00 - 11:50 am, and working on in-person labs on campus Wednesdays 12:00 - 2:50 pm.  Do not register for this class if you cannot be available during these required in-person class times.

Exams and quizzes will be administered during the Wednesday 11:00 - 11:50 in-person class time, with the exception of the final exam, which will be given Wednesday 12/13 9:45-11:45 am (Note the different time; the final exam must be given during the college's final exam schedule.)

On Wednesdays with no exams, we'll have working sessions during the 11:00-11:50 in-person class time where students can ask questions and engage in group problem solving activities.  

For the lab portion of this class (Wednesdays 12:00-2:50pm), students will complete labs in-person on campus. The labs are only available during the designated lab time.

About In-Person Labs...

If the County of San Luis Obispo's COVID situation worsens (or if there's weather closures like what happened in Spring 2023), I do reserve the right to convert some in-person labs to virtual labs in order to maintain a safe learning environment for everyone.  I don't anticipate us having to do any virtual labs (and I really hope we don't have to!), but it's important that you know what the back-up plan is.

Student Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course you will be able to:

1. Communicate the language of organic chemistry using IUPAC nomenclature and representations of molecules.
2. Describe and predict products of reactions of hydrocarbons and functional groups.
3. Predict the physical and chemical properties of organic and biochemical molecules.
4. Describe the composition and function(s) of biochemical pathways.
5. Safely perform organic and biochemical laboratory experiments utilizing appropriate apparatus and techniques.

Distance Learning

Is Distance Learning Right for You?

Although taking chemistry via distance learning may seem intimidating, it doesn't have to be! This format requires self-motivation and some organization, but you absolutely CAN be successful taking this course online.  Before enrolling, I encourage you to make an honest assessment of your readiness by reviewing the checklist posted on the Is Online Education Right for You, and if needed, take the self-paced Cuesta College Canvas Tutorial and/or the Online Student Readiness Tutorials posted there.  You will be working on your own and teaching yourself with the help of computer software, internet forum discussion questions, and videos. You have to be proficient with and enjoy working with computers.  If you know or suspect that your unique learning style requires any individual accommodations, please contact Cuesta’s Disabled Students Programs & Services (DSPS) as soon as possible so that we can all work together to ensure that your learning needs are met without delays.  

What is the Expected Time Commitment for this Course?

This course includes three lecture units and one lab unit.  Each week, this means that you will be spending approximately 12 hours on this course.  This time estimate includes working through three hours of lecture material, and three hours of doing lab activities.  In addition, six hours will be spent working on assignments, participating in discussions, working on practice problems, and preparing for quizzes/exams.  Some students may need additional time to achieve mastery.

Required Computer Equipment, Skills, and Course Materials

Computer Equipment Needed:

  • Constant access to a reliable computer with a webcam, microphone, and modern software, and a reliable internet connection
    • Cuesta system requirements are listed on the Technical FAQs page
    • You must have a backup plan in case your internet provider or computer goes down.  For issues related to accessing Cuesta's Canvas Site, email: support@my.cuesta.edu
  • A phone will not be a sufficient device for you to access all course requirements
  • Chromebooks Checkouts may be available for you to sign out for the semester from the Cuesta Library 
  • You may need access to a scanner or scanner app (free phone apps include Genius Scan, Cam Scanner, etc).  
  • Access to printer
    • The Open Innovation Lab has computers, scanners, copiers, printers, and more available for student use
  • Headphones/ear buds will give you a better experience with Zoom meetings (office hours, tutoring, etc.)  Although they are not required, I do recommend using a pair.

Technology Skills Needed

  • Using your my.cuesta.edu email account
  • Using Canvas
  • Downloading, printing, and uploading files
  • Scanning a document as a pdf
  • Taking a screenshot/"snip" on your computer
  • Posting in discussions, watching videos
  • Please note that assistance with basic computer skills is not provided as part of this course

Required Course Materials

Required: etext, solutions manual, and OWL2.  To enhance your learning experience and provide affordable access to the right course material, this course is part of an inclusive access model called First Day. You can easily access the required materials for this course at a discounted price of $91.99 (compared to purchasing separately at $140.00), and benefit from single sign-on access with no codes required in Canvas.  This package of required materials includes the Introduction to General, Organic, and Biochemistry, 12th edition etext by Bettelheim with imbedded student solution manual, and OWL2 (homework module).

Cuesta College will bill your student account at the discounted price of $91.99 as a course charge for this course.

It is NOT recommended that you Opt-Out, as these materials are required to complete the course. You can choose to Opt-Out on the first day of class, but you will be responsible for purchasing your course materials at the full retail price (which costs $140.00) and access to your materials may be suspended.

For more information and FAQs go to customercare.bncollege.com.

Required: Safety Goggles for in-person lab meetings 

    • I recommend the UVEX Stealth, especially if you will be taking more chemistry courses after this course.  While these are available in the bookstore, they are overpriced there! I recommend looking online for a better deal.
    • If you want to purchase goggles that are not the UVEX Stealth before the semester begins from somewhere besides the bookstore, PLEASE contact me and check that they are acceptable. The goggles must be chemical splash goggles, indirect vent, with the appropriate certification (Z87+); do not purchase just any goggles.
    • Do not purchase safety glasses! They are not permitted because Cuesta Chemistry safety requires goggles.

Optional but recommended: A scientific, non-graphing, non-programmable calculator capable of scientific notation (EXP or EE key) and logarithms (LOG and 10x keys). Note: you may not use your phone's calculator during quizzes and exams

    • Examples include the Texas Instruments TI-30Xa or TI-30XIIS and the Casio fx-115ES Plus models or similar (approximate cost $10)
    • We use the calculator for only one chapter, so if you do not already have one, consider signing a calculator out from the Cuesta Library.

Accessing the Course and Early Participation

The course will become available in Canvas no later than the first day of classes.  An email with login instructions will be sent to you my.cuesta.edu email prior to the first day of classes.  If you are not yet familiar with Canvas, you may find the Canvas Quick Reference for Students guide useful.  You must activate/login to your Canvas account and complete assignments that are due during the first week of classes.  Failure to complete these first assignments due the first week of classes may result in you being dropped from the course.  Accommodations will be made for any students that add during the second week.  I accommodate students from the waitlist (in order) as space allows, and I follow all policies and deadlines as noted in Cuesta's add policy, drop policy, and waitlist procedures.

Course Participation

All students in this class must work through the material at approximately the same pace so that they can help each other and participate in class discussions.  Therefore, it is important to keep up with the material and submit all assignments on time.  Discussion posts must be completed on time because if you submit a post late, you aren't really part of the discussion with the rest of the class. In addition to assigned discussion posts in Canvas modules, students are required to make at least 8 substantial posts (questions or answers) in the Piazza forum (linked from Canvas)  during the semester. Late assignments (excluding discussion posts and prelab assignments) will be penalized 10% and can be turned in up until graded assignments are returned, after which the assignment will no longer be accepted for credit.  All students are required to start quizzes and exams at the same time and complete them all aspects during their time window.  If you have an illness or other serious issue that keeps you from keeping up with the material, contact me as soon as possible so that I can work with you on any possible accommodations.  

Since participation is important in this course, students must continually participate in order to stay in the class. Excessive absences (missing 2 labs, 2 quizzes, or 2 exams) or neglect of coursework (below 50% in the 3rd week, or missing 50% of assignments or participation) may result in a drop.  Missing 3 or more lab experiments will result in a non-passing grade.

Academic Integrity & Honesty

The purpose of this course is for you to achieve mastery of organic and biochemistry concepts.  If you copy work from other sources (other students, the internet, your friend, etc.) for assignments, labs, quizzes, or exams, this will be detrimental to your understanding of the material and will make it less likely for you to succeed in this course and future courses.  Therefore, cheating will hurt you more than it will help.

Any form of falsely claiming work to be your own when it was not (copying off another quiz or lab report etc.) or sharing your work with others is considered cheating.  Academic dishonesty in any form, including plagiarism, copying, using the internet (such as google, Chegg, or other sites), or allowing another student to copy off of you is prohibited and will not be tolerated.  Do not copy anyone else's work!  This is not learning, it is cheating.  If you aren't sure how to answer a question, ask for help from me, a tutor, or a classmate via Piazza, but do not copy someone else's answer, and do not resort to google or YouTube.  There are many chemistry videos on YouTube with incorrect information.  If you violate the academic honesty policy, you may receive a “0” for the assignment AND an equivalent assignment, or an F for the course.  Please review Cuesta’s academic honesty policy and student code of conduct.


I will provide discussion forums for your to discuss the course with your peers as well as with me.  I can be reached via Canvas messaging (Inbox), which I regularly monitor.  I respond to asynchronous student questions typically within 24 hours (often much faster!), but definitely within 48 hours (although I may not respond during weekends).  I also will provide both in-person and virtual office hours via Zoom.  There will be a link within the Canvas page that will take you to virtual office hours, the times of which will be announced once the term begins.

How to Get Help with Course Material

If it were easy to simply read the textbook and immediately know chemistry, no one would need to take this course! I am here to help you, and I encourage you to ask questions early and often.  A section of the course orientation module I have prepared for contains detailed resources for help including myself, free online tutoring through Net Tutor and free tutoring delivered via Zoom by the Student Success Centers

Technical Issues? 

For issues related to accessing Cuesta's Canvas Site, email: support@my.cuesta.edu

I look forward to meeting you soon!



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