15 November 2013

YouTube pioneer named teacher of the year


Chemistry professor Jan H. Jensen is the 2013 recipient of the University of Copenhagen's prestigious Harald Award as teacher of the year for his innovative teaching. The award will be presented at the University's Annual Commemoration on 15 November. Other honours to be granted during the festivities include: the winners of the University’s International Study Environment Award and the Innovation Award, University doctoral degrees, honourary doctorates, and Gold and Silver awards for students.

Professor Jan H. Jensen receives the honour of the Harald Award 2013 because of his innovative teaching. Simulations and a groundbreaking 'molecule calculator' are among his methods. (click on image to enlarge)

Jan H Jensen, a professor in the Chemistry Department, is more than just a talented and dedicated university instructor. He is also a YouTube pioneer whose 100 videos uploaded to the on-line video service as part of his courses have received over 48,000 hits.

Professor Jensen’s efforts show how new educational tools, such as simulations and videos, can be used to compliment the often difficult to comprehend subjects of chemistry and nanoscience. His efforts have now earned him the 2013 Harald Award. The honour will be presented during the University’s Annual Commemoration on 15 November.

“Chemistry can often be a difficult subject because it is hard to visualise the world at the molecular level. Professor Jensen makes it easier to use and to develop simulation programmes during teaching,” says Professor Ole John Nielsen, a fellow chemistry professor who nominated Jensen.

A computer revolution in the lab

Professor Jensen’s ground-breaking simulations are surprisingly popular. One of his videos, about entropy (a measure of the amount of disorder in a system), has been see over 16,000 times.

In addition to popular on-line videos, Professor Jensen has developed a number of other computer-based education aids, including Molecule Calculator, an on-line program that makes it possible for students to determine the chemical properties of molecules they assemble themselves.

The program gives students the opportunity to work on far more complex problems than previously possible, in much the same way that advanced mathematics calculators have opened up new opportunities for maths students. MolCalc, as the programme has come to be called, has had over 12,000 hits since August 2012 and has come to be considered somewhat revolutionary among chemists.

The simulator programmes build and used by Professor Jensen makes it easier for the students to visualize how molecules interact. (screendump from protein-video)

Professor Jensen makes regular use of other non-traditional on-line teaching aids, such as surveys, quizzes as well as homework help. He also produces on-line lectures that his students watch before their classroom instruction begins. Students have welcomed Professor Jensen’s approach; his evaluations are above average, and most say the on-line tools work well.

Professor Jensen called the award “an honour” and hoped that it would help him to inspire others to begin using new instructional tools.

“It’s wonderful to be recognised for the amount of effort I put into developing them,” he says. “I would be thrilled if the award helped expose people to the potential on-line teaching aids have.”

See Professor Jensen’s ‘Illustrating Entropy’ video.

In recognition for his efforts, Professor Jensen will receive 25,000 kroner and a porcelain statuette of an owl, produced by Royal Copenhagen and decorated by Wouter Dolk.

Study Environment and Innovation awards

The winners of the International Study Environment Award and the Innovation Award will also be named during the Annual Commemoration.

This year, the International Study Environment Award goes to Jakob Ørum, Director of Studenterhuset.

The 2013 Innovation Award goes to Professor Barbara Ann Halkier, of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences.

University doctoral degrees will be conferred on Friday, as will honourary doctorates. Gold and Silver awards will be awarded to students that have completed faculty award assignments.

Read more about the Commemoration Ceremony.


Professor Jan Halborg Jensen
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences
Tel.: +45 5182 6985

News editor Anna Høxbro Bak
Tel.: +45 2264 0355