Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Biology eAcademy: Further Discussions on Teaching with Simulations

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbin...
Students in the incubation room at the Woodbine Agricultural School, New Jersey (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)
The group seems to have come to a consensus tha tthe online "labs" are really simulations and not labs. They can meet the same outcomes as labs though. Bob G. is not sure that the simulations in BiologyLabsOnline and ScienceCourseWare.org should be for more advanced students. Paul said that it is an experiment. They have used this with non-majors for three years with some success. There was a paper written that shows the program used with Middle School students.

Nathan A. has used the fly lab since 1995. He found it useful and the students found it challenging. He used it in a junior level genetics course to map genes. The key to the success is the support materials. The "teaching commons" will be an important piece in getting the right curriculum to the right students. He also like the report feature. It is a good exercise in how to create a lab report. They suggest creating a stand alone program just for lab reports.

Some of the exercises presented are complex, but instructors should be able to scaffold the experiments to help the students through the work. The preparation of materials takes time because there is a self-guided aspect to some of the online learning.

The discussion really speaks to the fear that somehow online learning will eliminate instructors but what we have seen here is that the role of the instructor as a guide through the experiments is essential. The creation of materials, the design of accompanying assignments, focusing the assessmemts all require a high level of faculty engagement.

Michael C. suggested that we create modular tools that would allow us to create our own experiments.

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