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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Serendip

by Jacqueline Hill
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 4.75 stars
Reviewed: Dec 25, 2013 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: Serendip is a website hosted at Bryn Mawr College with additional support from HHMI that is constantly evolving in response to the suggestions and the needs of the “visitors,” 99% of whom are not associated with the college. The content is organized into discrete sections, each section hosting a specific topic ranging from brain and behavior to digital humanities. To date there are over 30,000 pages of student essays, interactive games, lab exercises, lecture notes, book reviews, art exhibits, course descriptions, class syllabi, an a link to the college's "Teaching and Learning in Higher Education," a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal.
Learning Goals: There are no specific goals listed on the site beyond, play, learn, enjoy, and understand that you never know where you may find something new. The site aims to provide experience that may lead to new insights.
Target Student Population: High school through college.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None in general although specific parts of the site may work better with some background in the relevant science.
Type of Material: e-portfolio, Learning object repository, journal articles, reference materials
Recommended Uses: In-class activities, homework, lecture support, lab exercises
Technical Requirements: Flash, Shockwave, and other specific plugins.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths:
  • Each of the different sets of material is well organized and leads the user through an experiential learning exercise.
  • Covers a wide range of topics; something for everyone.
  • Engages students through interactivity and interesting, searching questions.
  • Provides many resources that support interdisciplinary instruction.
  • Most of the resources can be customized to the appropriate grade level.
  • An online venue for publishing student and faculty work.
  • A disclaimer that nothing in the website is "authoritative".
  • Invite collaboration and participating in the process formulating new questions, finding new directions and continuing the exploration.
Concerns:
  • The level of different exercises is very uneven
  • Student outcomes are not clear

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths:
  • High potential to get students to explore and to encourage critical thinking
  • Could easily be used for in-class discussion or out-of-class assignments.
  • Wide range of topics addressed; usable by many disciplines.
  • Encourages connections between sciences and science education and relationship to popular culture.
  • Provides a "guided tour" for new visitors to the website.
  • Provides helpful hints for navigating and finding desired resources.
  • Most activities are labeled for the grade level for which it is intended.
  • In the hands-on lab activities, teacher preparation notes and suggestions for optimizing the laboratory procedures are provided.
  • Access to primary literature in the open access journal.
Concerns:
  • Will require close examination to determine most appropriate use and audience

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths:
  • Topics are loosely organized into categories so that users can find exercises related to their disciplines.
  • Exercises are often in more than one category - good crossover between disciplines.
  • Encourages open-ended thinking and learning.
  • Website is easy to navigate.
  • Content suitable as materials for in-class analysis as well as online homework.
  • Materials are engaging and the website is updated with new posts regularly.
  • Most of the posted materials challenges the audience to think and develop their own opinion.
Concerns:
  • Not all links active
  • Will require instructor guidance in most cases to match with course learning outcomes

Other Issues and Comments: Some of the interactive games and activities require specific plugins which may not be available to some users.