MasteringBiology is being used in two courses:
- Biology I: a course for non-majors. It is a traditional lecture course with a lab.
- Biology II: a non-majors sequential course. Also lecture and lab format.
Both courses are capped at 24 students each, mostly comprised of freshman and sophomores. They are each 4 credit hour courses.
Scores are comprised of:
- 50%: in-class exams
- 20%: the final exam
- 18%: lab practicals
- 12%; homework and group assignments, lab reports and quizzes, including MasteringBiology
MasteringBiology is primarily used as a review tool. Students do assignments and have until the unit exam to complete them, which is typically about two weeks. Students, in general, use MasteringBiology to keep up with the assignments, rather than using it to go back and review previous material. The questions are pulled from the Test Bank, BioFlix animations and other Activities, such as Labeling. These interactives are favorites of mine and of the students. The students like the variety of answer types. They like to use MasteringBiology as a practice for the exams because they know that their exam will be a collection of essay and multiple-choice questions.
It appears that the students who are doing the MasteringBiology assignments are doing better on their tests, overall. The students respond positively to these aspects of the program: instant feedback, animations and other visual aids, and the opportunity to review. The students attend lectures and read the text. MasteringBiology allows them a different way to interact with that same content. It makes the course a little more interactive. I can tell the difference between the students who are doing MasteringBiology assignments just to get through the work and get a grade versus those students who are taking their time to work through the activities and questions in a more thoughtful manner. There is about a letter grade difference. The students like MasteringBiology. For example, before the last exam, I didn't create any homework assignments in advance. Some students asked me if I would post an assignment even if it wasn't for credit. They wanted it to review for the test.
Initially, when I first heard about MasteringBiology, it seemed like it would be a big task to implement it. So, I didn't use it in Fall 2008, as I thought it would be onerous and time consuming. My rep walked me through the program and I found it was very easy to set up. Furthermore, MasteringBiology is a great reinforcement of lecture material for the students. It allows them to approach the material in another way outside of class. What I like are the diagnostics (time, difficulty and completion data). I look to see how the students are doing overall in the course.