First Year Biology Teaching on the Web: To Lure and Catch the Imagination of the Students

Mary Peat, Sue Franklin


The School of Biological Sciences, at The University of Sydney, teaches first year biology to 1200 students each year, in almost every faculty on main campus, resulting in a student group with a wide range of abilities and background in biology. The teaching involves repeat lecture series, multiple concurrent laboratory sessions, and vast numbers of reports and examination papers to mark.

Computers were initially introduced to the learning environment to help students understand topics which are difficult to conceptualise and are often difficult to demonstrate in the laboratory. Currently computer-based learning modules, assessment and web-based materials are delivered in four, sixty seat laboratories (Franklin and Peat 1995). These materials are also available in a student resources room which contains ten networked computers, models, microscopes, reading materials and other resources. With an increasing use of computers in the laboratory and more materials becoming available for review and revision in the “actual” resources room, the pressure from students to open the room for much longer hours forced us to consider alternative ways of increasing their access to the materials.

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