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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Connecting Concepts: Evolution/Species & Speciation 3: Defining Species: 3 Case Studies

by Jan Cheetham , Robert Jeanne
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

4.77 stars
Content Quality: 4.9 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Sep 22, 2005 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview:

Evolution/Species and Speciation—The Importance of Being Species is one of a series of interactive web-based lessons designed to give introductory undergraduate biology students opportunities to connect biology concepts. Each lesson is a series of screens that breaks the topic down into simple steps and then illustrates the connections between the steps to present the completed concept or process. This set of lessons addresses what species are and how they might change over time; this site can be used as a supplement to the lecture to allow students to review the topic at their own pace and as many times as desired. This particular topic is a capstone exercise that forces students to use everything they have learned about natural selection and speciation. It investigates whether the Florida Panther is a unique species. This information has profound effects on conservation of endangered animals. A very good help screen is provided to help students use the lessons. The larger site containing the entire series will be very useful at the introductory level

Learning Goals:

The major goal of this lesson is to help students understand what species are and how speciation occurs. This lesson topic addresses how to determine if groups of organisms are one or several separate species.

Target Student Population:

High school (AP level) through college.

Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:

Students will need to have a basic understanding of natural selection and microevolution.

Type of Material:

Tutorial.

Recommended Uses:

This site could be used in many ways. 1. As the basis of a classroom lecture presentation. 2. As an out-of-class assignment before the topic is covered in class. 3. As a study tool for students after topic is presented in class.

Technical Requirements:

Use of a current web browser will be required. Macromedia Flash Player 6 plug-in is required.


Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.9 stars
Strengths:

  • A good interactive tutorial on speciation. The unit on mosquitoes is especially well done.
  • Lets students explore both the molecular and morphological criteria used to determine if two populations are different species.
  • Site is highly interactive—each lesson topic requires student participation to move through all parts of the exercise—can’t just skip through the pages without answering questions.
  • Each lesson is written to provide the feeling of investigative learning.
  • The third topic also illustrates that there are frequently not clear answers to problems in science.
  • Questions asked throughout lessons help provide student with continual self assessment of progress.
Concerns:

  • None

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths:

  • An excellent collection of applications of speciation for students to explore.
  • Could easily incorporate into homework assignments or review for students.
  • Very interactive and engaging. Slide bars and moving species onto a map is much nicer than canned multiple choice answers in many tutorials.
  • Concepts taught with a problem/project approach that helps catch and hold students’ attention.
  • Illustrates use of data from many sources to solve a problem.
  • Clearly demonstrates relationships between elements of each concept.
  • The site can be used in several ways—as a direct teaching tool in a distance learning course, as a lecture outline, as a review and study tool for students after topic covered in class.
  • Some of the questions asked will be challenging for introductory students.
  • Completion of plans for links to assessments and image/animation data bases will greatly enhance the usefulness of the site.
Concerns:

  • None

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths:

  • Well organized, all links are active.
  • Quality images with well written text.
  • Instructions clear, especially when manipulating components and entering animations.
  • Instructors manual available; summarizes the contents of each of the lesson topics.
  • Glossary available for selected terms.
Concerns:

  • Some of the text and graphics are very small and difficult to see.
  • Sometimes it is not easy to tell which button to hit next to proceed.

Other Issues and Comments:

This series of lessons has outstanding potential for use by faculty and students everywhere. The concepts are broken down to simple parts and then reassembled by an interactive process and animations into a whole. The lessons provide a problem based-approach to learning about speciation. This particular is an excellent illustration of using a case study to bring together all the material previously covered in a topic. It illustrates how data from a variety of sources can be used to find a solution and how more than one definition and solution are possible.