BIOL101 Intro to Biology I: Molecule to Cell
Michelle Wein, Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2011
This is a course in Bryn Mawr’s one-year post-baccalaureate program, for students who have earned a BS or BA, but need to take additional undergraduate courses to fulfill their pre-med science requirements. One of the challenges of teaching this course is that students have widely differing high school and/or college backgrounds in science and may have been out of college anywhere from one year to twenty. Michelle is using some elements from the OLI Biology course and numerous other open-source animations and activities (see syllabus for a list) as “pre-assignments,” which students with weaker backgrounds can use to familiarize themselves with the fundamentals before each lecture and certain activities.
BIOL110-113 Biological Exploration I-IV, Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr’s introductory biology course sequence for undergraduates consists of four half-semester courses with a lab component. These courses is designed to introduce students to basic concepts in molecular biology, cellular biology, physiology or ecology through an exploratory approach to a particular topic, issue, or question. They serve potential majors as well as the general population and students come to them with a wide range of experiences of biology or life science at the high school level. The goal is to engage students in the challenge and excitement of experimental biological research at the university and professional level, while ensuring they master basic concepts required for future work in biology.
Tamara Davis, Fall 2011
This half-semester course serves as an introduction to Bryn Mawr’s biology program. Most students come to this course with high school experience in biology or life science, but the topics they studied and the depth of that exposure varies widely. Tamara’s goal is to demonstrate how sophisticated and complex biology is at the university or professional level, in a way that engages students with a strong high school background in biology but doesn’t overwhelm those who are less-prepared. She has found online materials that teach the basic concepts underpinning the research and/or phenomena she discusses in class, and she wants to see whether these help address her students’ varying needs by allowing them to independently spend as much or as little time as they need on those concepts to master them. She is uses periodic online quizzes to gauge how they students are doing and what she needs to focus on in class.
BIOL113 Focus: Biological Exploration IV
Mike Sears, Bryn Mawr College, Spring 2012
Biology Lab 113 is a half-semester introductory biology course that is designed to be exploratory in nature and examines the proximate and ultimate explanations of ecological case studies that every biologist should know. Mike will be using online interactive activities by creating lessons and quizzes on Moodle for his students. He also hopes that an online exam that students may continue to take until they pass may act as a tutorial for a mastery exam for the class.
BIOL112 Focus: Biological Exploration III
Peter Brodfuehrer, Bryn Mawr College, Spring 2012
This is a half-semester introductory biology course that will focus on biological processes at an organismal level. Specifically, the topic of this course will investigate the underlying physiology associated with echolocation and thermoregulation in bats. Peter has found that there are a lot of online resources such as webpages and simulations that can prepare or introduce students to topics they will cover in lectures. He hopes that by using online activities that address the problem-solving based approach of physiology, he can replace long explanations of concepts in lecture with assessing how students are doing with the material and going over what students are having trouble with.
BIOL 0392: Conservation Biology, Biology and Environment Studies
Stephen Trombulak, Middlebury College, Spring 2013
This is an upper-level introductory course to conservation biology, typically taken by sophomores, juniors, and seniors majoring either in Biology (where the course serves as an elective) or Environmental Studies majors in the Conservation Biology track (where the course is required). A smaller fraction of the students are Environmental Studies majors with areas of specialization outside of the life sciences (e.g., environmental policy) or Anthropology majors who are interested in primate conservation.
Professor Trombulak wants to integrate into this course an approach referred to in the literature as “flipping the classroom.” This involves (a) digitally recording the lectures, (b) requiring the students to watch the lectures before coming to class, and (c) using class time to engage more interactively with the students, through exploration of case studies, discussion of readings, discussion of homework assignments, and role-playing scenarios. Professor Trombulak hopes this will result in (a) more sustained engagement in experiential learning following the case method, adopting the approach taken by professional schools in law, medicine, and business, and (b) greater personal engagement by the students since they will not be asked to sit through passive lectures when they are not energetically prepared for them.
Students are responsible for viewing the lectures before the class date, and there will be an assessment following each digital lecture. Professor Trombulak would create a series of questions based on the material in the digital lecture, and packages/delivers it to the students in the form of a post-lecture quiz, and make sure he is informed about (a) who completed the quiz, (b) what scores each student receives, and (c) the frequency distribution for each possible response for each question. He is working on incorporating all these components in the class.
Biology 324: Neurobiology
Robert Morris, Wheaton College, Spring 2013
BIO324 Neurobiology is a 300-level course with a weekly laboratory. Neurobiology is one of a set of courses that fulfills the 300-level course requirement for three bioscience majors: Biology, Biochemistry, and Neuroscience. Typically, 22 students majoring in related fields fill this class.
In the laboratory section, a blended approach would allow more in-depth face-to-face discussions on lab results, since the preliminary discussions would have taken place among students and between students and the professor online before labs. Professor Morris would have more time to evaluate students’ writings, and students would get feedback on days without classroom meetings. Online assessments will be used to ensure an achievement of basic level of understanding before class. Professor Morris believes that computer-based chat rooms on laboratory data will promote students’ engagement. He would also like to replace some of the problem sets with online assessments. Wheaton’s Moodle resources would allow both of these options.
SCI612: Neuroscience and Behavior
Janice Naegele, Wesleyan University, Summer 2012
This graduate level course introduced key concepts for understanding the functional organization of the brain and how it develops in embryonic and postnatal life. Lectures covered how sensory experience and neural activity shape brain functions and behaviors throughout life. Hands-on work with human brain models reinforced readings and lectures. Most of the students were working professionals, including elementary and high school teachers, administrators, business and salespersons, and journalists and writers interested in neuroscience. Professor Naegele hoped to accelerate classroom discussions by having students read and comment on the texts outside the classroom using software named “Collaborize” or other related software to increase classroom participation and retention of scientific concepts. In addition, students posted their assignments and accessed readings on Moodle. By offering two online class sessions during the summer, Professor Naegele hoped to become familiar with the pros and cons of blended learning courses. She planned to offer courses with more substantial online component in the future.
BIO 380-01: Nucleic Acids, Membranes, and Carbohydrates
Brian Cohen, Lecturer, Union College, Fall 2012
Biochemistry is one of two upper level biochemistry courses required for biochemistry majors and available as an elective for biology and chemistry majors. The overall learning goals of the course were: 1) to understand the relationship between structure and function for non-protein macromolecules; 2) to gain an appreciation for the non-traditional roles for non-protein macromolecules such as the use of DNA in aptamers for detection instead of just thinking about DNA as a molecule of heredity; and 3) to apply classroom learning about these macromolecule to practical applications in the laboratory. Cohen hoped the computer-based learning would 1) give students access to foundational material online to free up class time for application based learning, and 2) to give students resources that would not translate well to being used in the traditional classroom environment.
Cohen used three resources: 1) videos produced in-house explaining basic material; 2) web-based and other lecture materials and videos such as HHMI videos; and 3) web-based animations and interactive learning sites.