“Please, Sir, I Want Some More Genetics.”: Designing Interactive Online Modules to Encourage Student-Centered Learning in an Introductory Genetics Course – By Maria Papaconstantinou
Online learning modules have been shown to engage students and enhance learning and retention of core concepts in a variety of subject areas (McFarlin, 2008; McFarlin et al., 2011; McLaughlin et al., 2014; MacKenzie and Ballard, 2015). A number of studies also suggest that students in active learning environments are more likely to perform better academically than those in more traditional face-to-face classrooms (Brooks, 2011; Walker, Brooks, & Baepler, 2011; Freeman et al., 2014; Weiman, 2014). To facilitate and reinforce understanding and application of foundational course concepts and principles, to foster student engagement and skill development, to support flexible learning through online materials, and to improve student learning outcomes, interactive re-useable learning modules were developed and delivered online to students as a novel teaching strategy (a “flipped” or “blended” class approach) in a large introductory genetics course. These self-paced online modules integrate active learning and assessment (both formative and summative) activities (e.g. interactive tutorials and exercises, review questions, quizzes, etc., with the provision of immediate feedback and explanations of answers) and allow delivery of course content outside of class time, enabling active learning-based activities that promote student engagement during face-to-face time, and contributing to the growing pool of resources and pedagogical strategies that support effective online learning. Given that this course is a foundational pre-requisite course for upper level studies within most life science disciplines, and several learning outcomes have traditionally been difficult for students to achieve using conventional pedagogical methods, it is expected that these online learning modules will address common conceptual difficulties among undergraduate students enrolled in introductory genetics courses while supporting course-specific learning goals. In this session, the creation and administration of the online learning modules, the intended learning outcomes, and the opportunities, challenges, and lessons learned will be discussed. In addition, examples of these online learning modules, and evaluative data collected and analyzed to assess student satisfaction with these interactive online modules as well as the effectiveness of these modules in translating key learning outcomes, will be shared to promote discourse on how participants can apply this teaching strategy in other educational contexts.