Classroom Multimedia: Jon Frerik’s Biology 180
In many areas there is a critical shortage of health professionals. Yavapai College President, Doreen Dailey, knew that the first course in biology—Biology 180—was often a barrier to future allied health courses.
Analysis showed students failing Biology 180 dropped out of college. None repeated the course and none in the period were subsequently found attending any Arizona public college or university. Students had a diverse background that challenged faculty.
Tech savvy biology professor teamed with im+m’s Justin Tilton to see if multimedia in the classroom would increase student success rates.
It did. “Between 1992 an 1995 completion rates increased from about 60 percent to over 80 percent. In 1993 the biology faculty began to focus on retaining students in the course, with an immediate increase to about 70 percent. Completion rates in both the traditional and multimedia courses increased over this period, but increases were greatest for a section that was taught using graphic media, first in a linear form and subsequently in hypermedia form to permit immediate changes in response to student needs and interests. In 1995 the multimedia section achieved a completion rate of 85 percent.” [from Chapter 23 of the Handbook of Undergraduate Curriculum, (1996)].
The project began with a simultaneous video recording of Jon’s lectures and the students. This provided guidance on the multimedia content and better understanding of student response. For example, the typical lecture had five student questions. About half were on the immediate lecture content and half were related examples from their experience.
The multimedia was first used to accompany the lecture. Based on the students’ responses, graphical content was added to retain student attention. Later additional links were added to provide materials—during the lecture—that better explained some specific point, should the students’ questions suggest additional explanations were needed. Later the multimedia itself became available to students for review.
One student, on Rate My Professor provided perspective:
Jon is a sweetheart. He’s a really good teacher, and he does try his best to explain stuff as well as he can. He has all these drawings that he does to illustrate things, and he won’t move on until the gazes go from “huh?” to “I get it.” I took general Bio with him, and I loved everything about it. A lot of work, but worth every minute. Go for it! [http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=1053222].
In addition to improved student performance, the materials were covered more quickly than in sections that did not use the materials. Later Dr. Dailey suggested some classes be discussions when students could meet to ask any questions. This is also improved student performance and interest in biology.
Yavapai College was making an investment to improve classroom performance. It worked and begun to be supported and adopted by others.