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Peer Review

Connecting Concepts: Cell Biology/Thermodynamics 2: Energy conversions

by Jan Cheetham , Robert Jeanne


Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4.8 stars
Ease of Use: 4.8 stars
Reviewed: Sep 16, 2005 by Biology Editorial Board

Cell Biology/Thermodynamics Lesson Topic 2 is one of a series of interactive web-based lessons designed to give introductory undergraduate biology students opportunities to connect biology concepts. This lesson focuses on energy conversions in both non-living and living systems. It introduces the laws of thermodynmamics. Thermodynamics (sometimes referred to as energetics) is a difficult process for students to grasp; 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. 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:

This lesson topic is designed to acquaint students with energy conversions and the laws of thermodynamics and contains specific learning objectives.

Target Student Population:

High school (AP level) through college.

Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:

Students will need to have a basic understanding of chemistry as it applies to living organisms in order to understand this lesson. Students will also be expected to have read the text assignments on this topic.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars

  • The lesson is highly interactive.
  • 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.


  • Question on “How energy is absorbed and converted in Euglena may lead to some incorrect information about energy loss in the “universe.”
  • The matching question is lesson topic 2 is confusing

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.8 stars

  • 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.


  • None

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.8 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 lesson topic has outstanding potential for use by faculty and students everywhere. The concepts of energy conversion (transformation) are broken down to simple parts and then reassembled by an interactive process and animations into a whole.