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Peer Review

Sea Urchin Embryology



Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Aug 12, 2001 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: This site consists of a series of laboratory exercises and support lessons for the study of the sea urchin. In addition a great deal of additional information about sea urchins is provided. The site is intended for use by both students and instructors who are using the sea urchin in undergraduate labs. The "lab manual" portion of the site consists of a "core lab" which involves stimulating sea urchins to shed gametes and then studying the subsequent process of fertilization, and further "primary labs" which focus on early development and some simple experiments designed give the student experience in handling sea urchins as well as promote their understanding of developmental processes. Each lab has detailed instructions, links to animated gifs, pictures and videos illustrating the experimental techniques or explaining what is happening, links to detailed explanations of the different techniques used (microscopes, dilutions, etc.) a series of questions for the student to ponder, and suggestions for assessment. The site has 2-D and 3-D animated gifs of techniques (e.g. injecting KCl), processes such as sperm fusion with the egg, and videos of early developmental process.

In addition, a variety of ideas are provided to stimulate thinking and suggest further lines of research on sea urchins. Extensive additional information about sea urchins is provided on topics such as anatomy, physiology, natural history, etc. A "path of development" section provides animated gifs which illustrate various stages of the processes of fertilization and early development. The site even contains a video game "Uni's World" in which one must guide "Uni" around a tide pool to collect food and spawn before being eaten by a starfish.
Type of Material: Web site comprising online laboratory manual, glossary, and an extensive collection of reference material.
Technical Requirements: Web browser
Target Student Population: College and university undergraduates and instructors in developmental biology courses

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars

Quality of Content: (5.0)(5.0) = 5.0

  • The site is clearly laid out, complete, and easy to navigate.

  • It is engaging and interactive and leads the viewer from step to step
    through the laboratory exercises.

  • Almost every page contains a link back to the index (contents) page so
    that it is always easy to find one's way around.

  • The coverage is thorough and accurate, uses appropriate vocabulary and
    integrates the content.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool: (5.0)(5.0) = 5.0

  • The learning objectives are clearly stated and the site includes suggested
    lesson plans for using the material on the site.

  • It would be easy to use this site to set assignments since it demonstrates
    relationships and promotes an understanding of the scientific method and of
    the use of experiments to test hypotheses and solve problems.

  • It promotes a conceptual understanding and builds the students knowledge
    of sea urchin development.even at introductory level.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Usability: (5.0)(4.5) = 4.8

  • The site is well written and organized and usually easy to use.

  • There are clear instructions provided on a "How to use this site" page.

  • There were no broken links or major bugs in the site.key provides very limited

Features of Excellence:

  • Excellent and accurate text, extensive and clear graphics, easy to use and
    navigate, well written descriptions, open ended assignments with comprehensive
    instructions, links to extensive supporting material, multiple versions of
    assignments for different teaching and learning styles.

  • As well as the web site, the entire site can be obtained on a CD so that
    it can more readily be used in a classroom then would be possible when it
    is necessary to download everything from the web.


  • A site map would facilitate navigation around the site.

  • A description of how "Uni's World" works would facilitate its use. It is not intuitively obvious how to play the game and it takes some experimentation to figure out how to "eat", "spawn", etc.too elementary for some college classes.

Overall rating: (4.8) (5.0) = 4.9

Overall this is an outstanding site.