Traditional one-semester course taught on campus over 15 weeks. No lab. This is designated as a majors course; but pre-med students also take it. There are 1500-1600 students enrolled annually. We cover a third of the book which are in units broken down by: analytical skills and experiments 2-3 weeks; bio molecules 3 weeks, cellular reproduction 3 weeks, introduction to evolutionary biology 1-2 weeks, introduction to cell theory 2 weeks, energy metabolism 3 weeks. Our focus is on analytical skills, thinking and problem solving.
I believe in frequent and varied assessment. Students have a daily reading assignment before class and use iClickers in class to confirm their readings on a 5-question reading quiz. I also assign MasteringBiology items, both practice questions and animations, as homework. Initially I planned to assign MasteringBiology practice questions for graded homework, but set it up too late. To keep motivation high, I assigned it for credit if the students did work. 10 of the 14 weeks there is an online quiz given in Blackboard. These ten question formative assessment quizzes are called HyperQuizzes. Then there are 3-4 mid-term tests for summative assessment. One final test is given at the end of the course.
The students have different grading schemes to rely on.
1. Opted to do all the homework; all reading quizzes are counted except five lowest;
2. HyperQuizzes are counted dropping two lowest out of the 10.
3. Mid terms at least one is dropped
OR all mid terms and all the HyperQuizzes and the final is worth 70% of the grade.
So students can customize their assessment style to suit their stress level. For instance, they can choose to use the HyperQuizzes as trial and error and none of the grades on these quizzes count. At the end I'm interested in what they know when they leave the class. The schema with the highest grade is the student's own grade. The three schema are usually not that different. The final exam is very hard.
With MasteringBiology, I started by assigning 8 to 20 items. They were mostly test bank questions, mostly of an analytical nature and a harder degree of difficulty. If I saw a tutorial or BioFlix I liked, I assigned it. I definitely looked at MasteringBiology's automated duration and difficulty data. I tried to assign the harder questions.
MasteringBiology hasn't changed how I teach my course much. I added it in as a supplement. There were so many resources. I thought I would compare my students to the system averages.
MasteringBiology has the potential to affect student performance positively. In my case, I didn't take the time to build detailed homework assignments, but it is nice to have that resource tied directly to the text. Sometimes we have problems getting students to use the book...and no way can they answer the questions without understanding what they read in the book. The more students are exposed to the material, the better for their learning. I want to spend less time on concepts in class, and more time on pair work, group problem solving, and other activities.
We set up our course to focus on analytical skills and critical thinking. We are committed to getting our entire faculty to stress analytical skills over factoids. We can use MasteringBiology to take off the great weight of the conceptual information.