E-resources for BISC 202 – Genetics: Exploring Content, Tools, and Formatting

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Kevin Lam, Department of Biological Sciences

Project team: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Department of Biological Sciences, and Yonathan Uriel, research assistant

Yonathan Uriel, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, and Kevin Lam

Timeframe: July 2019 to August 2020

Funding: $5000

Course addressed: BISC 202 – Genetics

Description: We want to develop an online resource for our introductory genetics (BISC 202) course. We note that students have a difficult time with text books, which are overly dense and complex relative to the conceptual understanding we want our students to have at the end of the semester. We want to develop an interactive website that will enhance the understanding of the students in our courses. We have already collected some data on how students use textbooks, and the main use is practice at problem solving, rather than understanding concepts and terminology. We believe that the current texts used are daunting to students and that we have to meet them where they are. We think that the design of this online, open access tool will help them gain an understanding of important core concepts as well as providing practice at problem solving, along with “coaching” tips and guidance. This is the overall goal of the project. For this application, we plan to develop a “module” of resources and test their effectiveness in the next offering of BISC 202 in order to guide our development of the larger-scale resource.

Questions addressed:

  • Did students find the e-resource to be easy to understanding with an appropriate amount of detail?
  • If given only the e-resource or a course text book, which would the learners prefer and why.
  • Did the students offered the e-resources seem to understand the topic and solve related problems better than students that had no access to the resources?
  • Do other instructors feel they would use the resource (i.e. is the level of detail and coverage of the topic sufficient for their needs)?

Knowledge sharing: We will be meeting with other BISC 202 instructors throughout the development process, and have already talked to them about our plans. These are the most important people to communicate with.

Once we have the finalized version of our resource, we will try to present a workshop or talk about it at a conference, and will disseminate informally among colleagues.

The resource could be potentially useful to many others who teach introductory genetics and we anticipate sharing the resource with anyone interested in using it or testing its effectiveness. We both attend conferences and meetings and could either present a poster or workshop together, or even just discuss informally with other instructors.

SFU (and our department) is moving toward “Flex” learning, the idea being that education will be more flexible regarding scheduling, and more welcoming to diverse students etc.  In that regard, a course which uses an e-resource free of charge might make education just a little bit more accessible. Our textbooks are extremely expensive.