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Peer Review

Connecting Concepts: Animal Physiology/Signal Transduction 1 : Components and Events

by Jan Cheetham , Robert Jeanne


Overall Numeric Rating:

4.9 stars
Content Quality: 4.9 stars
Effectiveness: 4.7 stars
Ease of Use: 4.9 stars
Reviewed: Nov 01, 2005 by Biology Editorial Board

Animal Physiology/Signal Transduction—Components and Events is the first in a series of interactive web-based lessons designed to give introductory undergraduate biology students opportunities a better understanding of how signals from one part of body to another regulate activities on both a cellular and whole organism. This topic 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 topic addresses the basic components and events of signal transduction using a pool table analogy and the human fight or flight response. The concepts are clearly handled at a macro and intracellular level. 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 goal of this lesson topic is to help students understand the parts of a signal transduction pathway and how they interact.

Target Student Population:

High school (AP level) through college.

Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:

Students will need to have a basic understanding of cell structure and function as well as human nervous and endocrine systems.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.9 stars

  • An interesting approach to teaching signal transduction, first letting students see the goal in an abstract way through pool balls, and then going into the cellular details.
  • Challenging physiological examples will keep even bright students on their toes.
  • High quality animations with interactive questions asking students to explain what is happening at each step.
  • Animations clearly connect the different parts of each process into a coherent whole.

  • Some animations are fairly small, might be difficult for some students to see what is happening clearly.
  • Last unit on endometriosis is a bit confusing, as there really isn't much visible signal transduction happening. Sticking with an example like insulin might be clearer for students.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.7 stars

  • Very good use of tutorial animations and formative and summative questions.
  • Initial concepts taught in a story/game playing (pool game) mode; easier to comprehend and retain.
  • Could make assignments based on the tutorial.
  • Would be a good companion to a lecture on signal transduction.
  • Use of real examples (mosquito biting, student fight or flight response, and endometriosis) makes story more relevant to students.
  • Completion of plans for links to assessments and image/animation data bases will greatly enhance the usefulness of the site.

  • Some of the analogies are a bit difficult to follow at first, but the students could figure them out by trial and error.
  • Would require decent background in lecture, most students would get frustrated trying this without enough background.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.9 stars
Strengths: <

  • Well organized, runs smoothly, no dead links.
  • Instructions generally clear, especially when manipulating components and entering animations.
  • Definitions of components kept constantly available in a drop down box is an excellent idea.
  • Glossary available for selected terms.

  • Small size of some images would make use in the classroom difficult.
  • No source code availble for the flash animations.

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 animations into a whole. The interactivity and intuitive nature of this lesson make it easier for student to follow the story used and understand the basic parts and interactions involved in signal transduction. The use of a pool table analogy for signal transduction pathways is excellent.