From Abstract to Manipulatable: The Hybridization Explorer, A Digital Interactive for Studying Orbitals

Sarah E. Wegwerth, Jason S. Overby, Christopher J. Douglas, Julia E. Winter, Gianna J. Manchester, Joseph Engalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As digital educational media use becomes more widespread, an opportunity exists to develop new methods to present abstract ideas to provide a more meaningful learning experience. Drawing from psychology and dynamic visualization research, new interactive tools can be thoughtfully designed but it is also necessary to establish how these media are used and to study the effects the new interactive tools have on concept understanding. In this technology report, we present the Hybridization Explorer, a web-based interactive learning tool for manipulating and experimenting with hybridization concepts. The explorer has three modes of use to explore both the combination of atomic orbitals, and the visual representation of both atomic and hybrid orbitals and corresponding bond formation. Case studies from an undergraduate- A nd graduate-level demonstration of the explorer are described. Finally, self-reported student confidence levels on solving hybridization questions both before and after use of the explorer are analyzed and discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-661
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 9 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
First, we thank the students who participated in the use studies. We also acknowledge Kep Amun and Jeremy Strawn for developing (writing the code for) the Hybridization Explorer, Elizabeth Gross for the graphical abstract, designing visuals in the explorer and building the research web pages that embedded the explorer, and Donaldo Celaj for assistance in making the Sankey diagrams. Funding for this project was provided by an NSF SBIR Grant No. 1659983.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.


  • Covalent Bonding
  • Curriculum
  • Demonstrations
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • General Public
  • Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives
  • Internet/Web-Based Learning
  • Second-Year Undergraduate
  • VSEPR Theory
  • Valence Bond Theory


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