Traditional course taught on campus. There are three individual labs per course. Student body is primarily comprised of biology majors. There are about 450 students annually.
Points are accumulated through practicals (written reports), exams, lab work, MasteringBiology assignments, and attendance.
Before MasteringBiology students had a three-hour practical (written report), connected to their lab work. In lab, students worked in pairs on equipment. As evidenced by their written reports, the students were not challenged enough. It was easy for them to rely on other students in the labs; and hence, some students missed much of the learning opportunity.
Now students are expected to complete an hour-long assignment in MasteringBiology before going to lab. Because the students are exposed to the topic before lab, they all contribute to the discussion. The labs are now divided into two sections. In the morning, students meet in small groups to discuss the problem in depth and how to set up the experiment. In the afternoon, the students work independently based on the plan they devised within the group. In this manner, each student works both collaboratively and independently. Their practicals are much improved from the previous year. Completing a MasteringBiology in advance has primed them well for their lab work.
A variety of questions are selected from the item library, including tutorials, activities and multiple choice questions. The tutorials are the best of the assignable content. When selecting items to assign, attention is given to the MasteringBiology's system averages, in particular the duration data. Assignments are built to be approximately an hour long.
We would be amazed if MasteringBiology does not improve student performance. It gives students something to do. Just the fact that the items are assignable keeps students motivated and on track. The tutorials are well thought out. Students respond well to the tutorials when they get an answer right.
Good students will benefit using MasteringBiology, but they would do well with almost any study aid. The mid-level students might benefit the most because of the tutorial's tailored wrong answers and customized hints.
Anecdotally speaking, the practical skills are remarkably better when compared to students in prior years. The number of good to really good students has gone up. MasteringBiology frees the academics from tedious grading, allowing us to concentrate on the practicals.
MasteringBiology lets the instructor see how the entire class is doing as a whole. Before an assignment is due, the instructor can check in to see how many students have completed the assignment, are mid-way through the work, or haven't even started yet. In this way, MasteringBiology provides the instructor with some valuable insight into student behavior.