I just finished teaching HMB301F, a third-year half course entitled “Biotechnology” at the University of Toronto, as a sessional lecturer. The course explored the interaction between science and business and their roles in the promise and reality of the Biotechnology industry. The course drew on the book Science Business by Gary Piscano (2006). From all accounts, the course was a great success - the majority of students enjoyed it and found it valuable, and I enjoyed teaching it. Outlined below are eight innovations that I introduced.
1) TWITTER: In order to provide current content to the course, I set up a course specific twitter account (www.twitter.com) and retweeted about 80 relevant news stories and e-zine articles that I came across throughout the term (many from FierceBiotech). I plan to maintain this account for those who are interested.
2) TEAM-BASED LEARNING: One-third of the course involved team-based learning in which students were required to complete a reading assignment as homework each week and then answer two multiple choice quizzes in class. The first quiz was completed individually and the second as part of a randomly generated team of 5 students in which they discussed the reading and the questions being posed. This proved to be a engaging and well-received process. For more information see www.teambasedlearning.org
3) SCRATCH CARDS: For the team-based learning sessions as well as for class participation, IF-AT scratch cards were used (Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique by Epstein Educational www.epsteineducation.com). Multiple choice questions were presented to the students, who then scratched their chosen answer. If correct, a star was revealed. If incorrect they scratched a second choice and so on until they uncovered the correct answer - hence immediate feedback. The students liked the feedback, the assignment of part marks depending on the number of answers scratched, and the fact that taking up the questions was no longer necessary.
4) SURVEYS: I surveyed the class using SurveyMonkey at the beginning of the course, halfway through and near the end. The first survey explored the students’ interests and goals. As 84% were interested in learning more about careers, a lecture was dedicated to this. The second survey explored the course content, delivery and testing with minor adjustments being made based on the feedback. The third survey focused on the Guest speaker who was well received.
5) INQUIRY: As part of the research project on a biotechnology company of the students' choice, they were required to contact their company (e-mail/ phone) and ask about career opportunities. The response rate was 25% and significant information about the skills and expertise in highest demand (Scientists in their product area), as well as the preferred education (PhD, MBA) was collected and shared with the class.
6) TESTING: Both the midterm and final exam included 25 short answer questions. The types of questions were equally divided between the six types outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy (See www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html and
http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy). This involved the standard remembering (list, name, describe) and understanding (explain, interpret) types as well as higher-order questions requiring applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating (interpret, compare, hypothesize, critique).
7) BLACKBOARD: UofT provides Blackboard Learn as their Learning Management System (www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Learn/Overview.aspx) (Learning Portal as they call it). I used this website/ portal to its full potential, posting each lecture before and a revised version after (as 1, 2 & 3 slides per page), as well as supporting documents and links, homework assignments and general announcements, and all grades. The students appreciated this rich, one-stop shop.
8) RECORDINGS: Both I and one of my students recorded each lecture independently. These were then made available to the class for review via Dropbox given their size (> 20 Mb/ 50’ lecture). In future, I would like to merge this audio with the PowerPoint slides and perhaps add some video as well. In doing so, I could further explore the flipped classroom model. One company that facilitates this is Echo360.