General Organic Chemistry I

CHEM 281/3.0

An introduction to the basic principles of organic chemistry with emphasis on bonding, stereochemistry, reaction intermediates and reaction mechanisms, and structure-reactivity correlations. Intended for students in biological and life sciences. Students in chemistry or biochemistry programs should not enrol in this course. See also General Organic Chemistry II.


CHEM 281/3.0 introduces students to the basic principles of organic chemistry with emphasis on bonding, stereochemistry, reaction intermediates and reaction mechanisms, and structure-reactivity correlations. The virtual laboratory introduces basic experimental techniques and illustrates properties of organic compounds in a virtual laboratory setting.

CHEM 281/3.0 has a significant level of interaction with the instructor and TAs to help students master the course material.

This course is intended primarily for students in biological and life sciences, and for those considering pursuing careers in the health sciences/medical sector.

This course may be used by Queen's students towards the degree requirements of programs in the biological and life sciences. Queen's students taking programs in chemistry, biochemistry or chemical engineering/engineering chemistry should not enroll in this course. Students from other institutions pursuing chemistry, biochemistry or similar programs should check with their home institution regarding the suitability of this course towards their degree programs.

Visit the course webpage for more information.


Proctored Exam


Virtual Labs

Virtual Lab Report



WileyPlus Online Assignments


Course Activities

Virtual Labs (15%)


Virtual Lab Report (5%)

The four interactive, web-based labs introduce basic techniques and illustrate properties of organic compounds. The labs are a series of online tutorials and videos explaining an experiment or an experimental technique for which small reading and practice problem assignments are also incorporated. Assessments of the labs will examine concepts related to experiment design and the practical aspects of a science course.

The virtual lab report will be a report to be submitted for an experiment from the online tutorials.  Several practical questions will need to be answered by the student.  A practice lab report will be posted so students know what to expect.  This report will be delivered by the Moodle system as an electronic file partway through the course (deadline TBA).

WileyPLUS Online Mastery Assignments (15%)

WileyPLUS online materials are designed to help you expand your knowledge in the concepts discussed and act as a supplementary virtual tutor. The assignments provide an opportunity for you to apply your knowledge to a mastery level before moving onto another topic. Practice questions are also available to help you to check your understanding of the material and increase your skill at completing organic calculations.

Final Examination (65%)

The final exam will be made up of a multiple choice section of 30-40 questions, long answer questions, and lab questions.

Web-based Tutorials

Regular, recorded interactive web-based tutorials (with screen sharing and virtual whiteboard) will be held between student groups and tutors/instructor to keep students to milestone syllabus achievements. The tutorials will be both topic-based and free-form in order for questions to be asked and solved. Tutorials will be held at least once every two weeks.

Virtual Office Hours and Moodle Discussion Board

Vitual office hours with the instructor/TA's will be available at least once a week using web-based video chat functionality. The Moodle discussion board will be available every day. A response to questions posted in the Moodle discussion board is guaranteed within 24 hours.

Students must pass the exam to pass the course.

Final Examination

Students must write their exam on the day and time scheduled by the University. The start time may vary slightly depending on the off-campus exam centre. Do not schedule vacations, appointments, etc., during the exam period.

Exam Preparation

A trial midterm exam with answers will be posted after Week 3 along with solutions so students can monitor their progress. The exams will not be marked but there will be online tutorials devoted to them. The online mastery assignments in WileyPLUS will also allow students to identify their strong and weak areas as the course progresses.


Textbook sections covered (Organic Chemistry, Solomons and Fryhle, 10th ed.)

A. What is an Organic Molecule?


Lewis Structures (review)


Structural Formulas


Molecular Geometry: Quantum Mechanical Model (review)


Hydrocarbons ("the skeleton")


Polar and Non-Polar Compounds


Functional Groups ("the organs")


Physical Properties and Intermolecular Forces

B. Organic Reactions: General Principles


Organic Reaction Mechanisms


Acid-Base Reactions

C. Stereochemistry I: Conformational Analysis

4.1-4.2, 4.7-4.9

Conformational Analysis of Alkanes


Conformational Analysis of Cycloalkanes

D. Stereochemistry II: Chirality




Chirality and Enantiomers

5.7, 7.2

Nomenclature:R/S and E/Z systems


Optical Activity


More Than One Stereocenter: Enantiomers and Diastereomers


More about chirality.Separation of Enantiomers

E. How to Make Organic Molecules? Nucleophilic Substitution and Elimination Reactions


Nucleophilic Substitution Reactions


The Mechanism of SN2 Reactions


The Mechanism of SN1 Reactions


SN1 vs. SN2


Functional Group Transformations via Substitution

E. How to Make Organic Molecules? Nucleophilic Substitution and Elimination Reactions (continued)


Elimination Reactions: E1 & E2


Substitution vs. Elimination


Making Alkenes via Elimination Reactions


Making Alkynes via Elimination Reactions


SN1 and SN2 reactions with epoxides

F. Addition to Alkenes and Alkynes; Alcohols and Ethers


Addition to Alkenes: Hydrogenation


Addition to Alkenes: Markovnikov's Rule


Hydroboration-Oxidation: Anti-Markovnikov syn Hydration

8.12-8.14, 8.18-8.19

Electrophilic addition of halogens to alkenes and alkynes

8.16-8.18, 8.20, 11.13

Oxidation of Alkenes and Alkynes, Alkene epoxidation


Alcohols and Ethers: Reactivity and Synthesis


Those with a phobia about organic chemistry can relax. Adjunct Professor John Carran understands the fear and will do his utmost to help. Those without the fear will benefit too. New online courses CHEM 281  will provide a means for students to study organic chemistry both independently and remotely, but with ample opportunity for one-on-one help.

Carran, who holds an undergraduate degree in applied chemistry from the University of Salford, and a PhD in medicinal chemistry from the University of Sheffield, says that his experience in the UK made him understand the potential of online courses. 

I’m interested in providing an education for all students. I come from the UK where we have the Open University and I’m aware of the vacuum that model of learning can fill. Virtual courses offer non-traditional students the same opportunity as a student on campus. Even difficult, high demand courses should be accessible to those students who are seeking career change, retraining, or just need to fit organic chemistry into their curriculum somehow.

The online course is geared at least in part, to those students who need to take organic chemistry for medical or other health sciences studies.

Online CHEM 281  share the syllabus with the regular second year organic chemistry course held on campus. The laboratory component of the course is done through online virtual labs. Carran uses Moodle, discussion forums, a virtual lab site, Elluminate business communication software (chat and virtual white board), and email to interact with students. It is his aim to have answers to all student enquiries within 24 hours, but he says, “Our experience is that we can often provide answers within a couple of hours.”

John Carran teaches a variety of university chemistry courses from first year through to graduate level courses, but he is especially enthused about the potential for CHEM 281. “We have a tremendous opportunity right now,” he says, “I want this course to be the leader in this field, to be the best.”

Time Commitment

Students are advised to allow at least 16.5 hours per week to complete all components of the course (online assignments, virtual labs, online tutorials, reading, and practice problems). This is the minimum suggested time.

Course notes and readings

6.5 hours/week (approx 2.2 units/week @ 3 hours/unit)

WileyPLUS, assignments and other activities

6.5 hours/week (approx 2.2 units/week @ 3 hours/unit)


1.5 hours/week for each of the 6 weekly tutorials


2 hours/week (4 labs @ 3 hours/lab over 6 weeks)


16.5 hours/week

Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.


Moodle is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into Moodle to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the Moodle site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a good-quality computer (Windows XP/Vista/7, Pentium III, or Mac OS X 10.5, G4 or G5 processor, 256 MB RAM) with a high-speed internet connection, soundcard, speakers, and microphone, and up-to-date versions of free software (Explorer/Firefox, Java, Flash, Adobe Reader). See also Preparing For Your Course.


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s are 1 April (for May summer term), 1 June (for July summer term), 1 August (for fall term), and 1 December (for winter term). All documents must be received by the 15th of the month following the deadline. You can register for a course up to one week after the start of the course. See also Dates and Deadlines.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for 2014-15 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Canadian students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $605.31; for a 6.0-unit course, $1210.62. See also Tuition and Payment.

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.