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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Molecular Biology Web Book

by Web Books Publishing
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

4.5 stars
Content Quality: 4.5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.25 stars
Ease of Use: 4.75 stars
Reviewed: Mar 23, 2013 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: This material provides a free web-based textbook covering a number topics in molecular biology. It includes 10 chapters, the contents of which are standard for any textbook on molecular biology. When the book is first opened a list of available chapters is provided as links to those chapters which, when clicked, take you to a page of topics for that chapter that can also be clicked. Each chapter link takes the reader to the text for that topic. There are no animations but some of the pages have links to external material for additional reading.
Learning Goals: The site provides a freely accessible open textbook that could be utilized by students as supplemental learning material on topics specific to molecular biology. The web book can serve as a reference material for a General Biology Class or Molecular Biology Class. The book can be used as a review material for students preparing to take the MCAT and other health related professional board exams.
Target Student Population: The level is appropriate for undergraduate college students and some graduate level education.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Only basic computer skills are necessary to navigate the site. A basic understanding of chemistry and biological principles is recommended.
Type of Material: This material is presented as a free open textbook.
Recommended Uses: In class primary text, reference materials for Biology and Biochemistry classes, reference materials for anyone interested in the basic concepts of molecular biology. It is useful as a supplement it a traditional textbook.
Technical Requirements: A web browser/html with no special plug-ins is required. The site was tested on Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer in Windows 7. Testing was also done with Firefox on Linux Ubuntu 12.04 as well as on Safari on the iPhone. The material worked well on all of the platforms.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths:
  • Material is detailed and has concise explanations of complex topics
  • It is well organized and follows a logical flow
  • The materials are presented in a concise way and students who are interested in furthering their knowledge are provided with links to other resources, some of which are direct links to primary literature
Concerns:
  • As a web book most users will either need to print the pages or read at their computer; however, this concern is somewhat mitigated if the user reads the information on hand-held or mobile device where it can be viewed from a reader on the device
  • The presence of so many advertisements on the page, sometimes in the middle of the text, can distract the learners
  • The purely text and line drawing presentation without incorporating some multimedia technology to illustrate the dynamic concepts of molecular biology does not diminish the academic merit but it could drive younger audience away

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.25 stars
Strengths:
  • This web book could be an effective learning tool as a supplement to a college undergraduate course covering molecular biology
  • The open book is organized systematically into "chapters" and each chapter can be accessed independent of other chapters
  • Providing accessible references encourage students to be life long learners
Concerns:
  • The presence of too many advertisements is a distraction especially to users who are used to multimedia resources
  • The text and line drawing illustrations can’t compete with the colorful advertising throughout the page and could lure students away from learning the concepts

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths:
  • Website is very easy to use, just point and click
  • The brevity in text and line drawing illustrations reminds the user of a digitized instructor’s notes but the inclusion of references, many of which are primary literature and actively managed online resources provides opportunities for serious students to pursue related topics of interest or seek further clarification of concepts that may not have been explained completely
Concerns:
  • For audience who are used to, and expect multimedia resources, the absence of animations and narrated explanation could drive them away from the site
  • The presence of too many advertisements is an easy way to distract learners

Other Issues and Comments: Molecular biology is a dynamic concept and can use basic animations to demonstrate "movement" and progression of molecular processes. The line drawings provide weak attempts at demonstrating the concepts.