Marisa Market helps first-year biology students Emily Laughland, Tanja Spasojevic and Brenda LaoTeaching assistant Marisa Market helps first-year biology students Emily Laughland, Tanja Spasojevic and Brenda Lao assemble models of genetic material in a lab on cell division.

Online component gives biology students a head start on learning

If first-year students in biology get more out of their labs this semester, they will have Hussein Hammoud and Marisa Market to thank.

Now in their fourth year majoring in biology, they developed online materials for first-year students to review prior to their hands-on activities during teaching labs. The project received support from grants awarded to professor Dora Cavallo-Medved by the Centre for Teaching and Learning and the Office of Research and Innovation Services.

“They worked together to introduce a virtual component to complement the hands-on labs,” says Dr. Cavallo-Medved. “Tests they ran with volunteer reviewers were so successful we have implemented their materials into the first-year biology courses.”

Hammoud and Market identified online resources—quizzes, questionnaires, videos—to reinforce lessons about cell division and forces of evolution. Students were directed to these materials in preparation for the lab work.

“Our survey showed that respondents said they understood the lab work better when we gave them this context,” says Market. “The interactive videos allowed students to explore the concepts at their own pace.”

Cavallo-Medved says the changes mean a definite improvement: “It is making for a better learning experience for our students.”

She hopes to see the results applied to more labs and more courses. It has been a good experience for the senior students as well, she points out. They presented their work at the Windsor-Oakland Teaching and Learning Conference in May.

“Most people don’t get this type of experience until grad school,” she says.

Hammoud says he has enjoyed seeing their research making an impact for newer students.

“It has been a great opportunity to enhance something we have already been through.”