Creating Opportunities from Challenges in On-line Introductory Biology
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences
This paper addresses some of the instructional, technical and personal challenges in the preparation of an introductory biology course for on-line delivery. The major issues were to create a constructivist instructional design in a science discipline, to ensure tasks were at an appropriate level for university entrants, to facilitate acquisition of practical skills in an on-line environment and the transition to university study. The instructional framework was based around three forms of assessment: regular contributions to discussion boards, regular practical type activities and a group assignment. To stimulate student engagement and deep understanding, tasks were open-ended, authentic and included role-play simulations. Considerable thought was given to the challenges of teaching practical skills in the on-line environment. Computer simulations of complex laboratory procedures and biological processes were used to replace some laboratory activities. The student’s own natural environment was also used to acquire some basic field and practical skills. Finally, the communication and collaboration properties of the Internet were used to stimulate the formation of a learning community as a strategy to ease the transition to University study.