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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Basic Neural Processes Tutorials

by John Krantz
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

3 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 3 stars
Ease of Use: 3 stars
Reviewed: Jul 24, 2002 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: The Basic Neural Processes Tutorial is a combination of basic neural physiology and MRI-based anatomy of key brain regions. The physiology component highlights axon physiology that is the foundation for action potentials. This part of the tutorial includes numerous simulations to help illustrate the movement of ions and changes in membrane potential. Several basic quizzes assist the learner. In a somewhat disjointed fashion, this tutorial also includes images from the Whole Brain Atlas at Harvard. The images are high quality. Students can use labeled images for studying and take numerous quizzes that require identification of brain anatomy. A glossary of terms is included and is well linked with the tutorial.
Learning Goals:

  1. Learning basic concepts of neuron anatomy and physiology.
  2. Learning basic brain anatomy through labeled MRI images.
Target Student Population: The physiology component is targeted to entry-level physiology or neuroscience students. The brain anatomy component is targeted to upper-level undergraduates or premed students through graduate and medical students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Basic understanding of neurons and the brain.
Type of Material: Tutorial
Recommended Uses: In its entirety this site would be okay for individual review by students. Some instructors may find parts of it very relevant for use in the class room.
Technical Requirements: None.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths:

  • The material is accurate(albeit, with many typos that should be corrected)
  • There were multiple one- or two-question quizzes imbedded in the text that enhanced the interactive nature of the site and facilitated learning.
  • Images from the Whole Brain Atlas are of high quality and offered a nice selection of images from the whole data base.
  • The home page animation is eye catching.
  • The site offers simulation of the biochemistry that allows propagation of an action potential in a neuron.
Concerns:

  • While appropriate vocabulary is used, the text contains confusing, run-on sentences that do not clearly communicate concepts.
  • Core concepts are not described succinctly or engagingly. There is little integration from concept to concept.
  • It would be helpful to have some description or explanation of the animation on the home page.
  • The simplicity of the simulations in the axon physiology component is in stark contrast with the upper-division expectations of the brain anatomy. This tutorial would be strengthened if separated into two separate tutorials.
  • The layout is hard to follow; the user frequently isn't sure where the next forward button in the physiology component will take them.
  • Many typographical errors throughout the text reduces the quality of the content.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths:

  • It is useful to have simple quizes such as these available on a website.
  • The content of this tutorial promoted problem solving and conceptual understanding of the action potential.
  • The site contains numerous outside links that were appropriate and useful.
Concerns:

  • There is no clearly defined teaching plan for use of the website.
  • There is no clear demarcation between this website's material and that of other websites.
  • There is a lack of relationships drawn between concepts.
  • The neuron physiology information and brain anatomy quizes are simply stuck together in this site. A bridge needs to be built between the two.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths:

  • The pages loaded quickly.
  • The pages are fairly easy to navigate, however, the Back key is needed in several instances.
  • The anatomy component is very easy to use.
Concerns:

  • In general, the site is poorly organized. The text and graphics are not laid out in a way that is easy to understand or use. The instructions for questions and navigation in the physiology component are frequently imbedded in the text. The links between pages are not set out in a linear way that allows orderly review of materials.
  • The user has to progress through the quizes from start to finish, without the option of being able to pick a specific quiz.
  • There are some broken and misleading links.