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Peer Review

Connecting Concepts: Ecology/Population Dynamics 1: Exponential Growth

by Robert Jeanne , Jan Cheetham


Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Sep 16, 2005 by Biology Editorial Board

Ecology/Population Dynamics 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. Population dynamics is highly mathematical and very difficult for introductory biology students to understand. 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 focuses on a case study of the zebra mussel. The lesson requires students to collect data, graph it, work with the exponential growth equation, and then present results. 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

Type of Material:


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.

Identify Major Learning Goals:

The major focus of this lesson is to help students understand the exponential growth model and the mathematics behind the model.

Target Student Population:

College level.

Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:

Students will need to have a basic understanding of calculus (differential equations). Students will also be expected to have read the text assignments on this topic.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars

  • The lesson requires students to work with data from hypothetical situations to illustrate exponential growth curves.
  • The lesson includes manipulating data tables, graphs, and using the equations that describe growth to calculate specific parameters.
  • Questions asked throughout lessons help student get feedback on understanding of concepts/process.
  • Animations clearly connect the different parts of each process into a coherent whole.


  • None.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.5 stars

  • Manipulation of data as part of lesson makes it an excellent learning tool.
  • 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 promote problem solving by student.
  • Some of the questions asked will be very challenging for introductory students.
  • Completion of plans for links to assessments and image/animation data bases will greatly enhance the usefulness of the site.


  • None.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars

  • 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.


  • None.

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 use of data manipulation.