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Peer Review

The Double Helix



Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 3.5 stars
Effectiveness: 3.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.75 stars
Reviewed: Dec 26, 2011 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: The Double Helix is a site that provides good information about DNA along with a game to help users learn how DNA is replicated. The game allows users to add nucleotides to strands of DNA using base pairing rules. Once competed, the user processes information gained form the exercise to determine what organism the DNA came from by looking at the chromosomal number and the amount of genes in the organism. There is additional information at this site about the history of DNA. The introductory material is pretty good and the game, although a little long, gives users a good interactive way to learn about DNA.
Type of Material: This site is an interactive tutorial that helps users learn about the DNA magic code and how it is replicated.
Recommended Uses: The material can be used in the classroom, although it might be best suited for individuals who enjoy interactivity in learning about DNA. Information is provided about base pairing rules and the fact that different organisms have different chromosomes and gene numbers.
Technical Requirements: This site requires use of Adobe Flash Player.
Identify Major Learning Goals: Users will learn about the DNA code and how it differs among organisms.
Target Student Population: High school and undergraduate students will benefit from this site.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: There are no prerequisites for this site, although some knowledge about the structure of DNA will help in understanding what is presented.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 3.5 stars
  • The information is accurate and provides good basic background about DNA
  • Shows users basic information abut DNA and base pairing rules
  • Provides background to show that different organisms have different genes and chromosome numbers
  • Makes science fun and teaches fundamentals about DNA at the same time
  • Interactivity keeps users interested in the material
  • Game scoring at the end of the lesson helps users test knowledge
  • Color coding helps understand conservation of the genetic code
  • The game lasts a big long and users may lose interest
  • The speed of the game is a bit fast
  • It might help if the game stopped when improper base pairing is attempted and provided users with a chance to correct their mistake(s)
  • More information about semiconservative replication may enhance the learning experience

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3.5 stars
  • The pedagogy of providing information before the game is a nice blend of learning and interactivity
  • The game keeps the learning experience interesting
  • Matching base pairs accurately and quickly adds excitement to the game
  • This is a unique way of learning about base pairing
  • Provides users with a score so they can compare to others
  • Learning objectives are not clear
  • The game, although fast-paced, gets a little monotonous
  • Animation would be more educational if a mechanism for correcting base pairs was provided

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.75 stars
  • Fun game that will keep users entertained, while learning the basics of DNA structure
  • The information is well organized
  • Site is fast and intuitive
  • No defective links or major bugs were found
  • It would help if a pause function was added to the game
  • Providing a mechanism to correct when mistakes are made would enhance the game portion of this site

Other Issues and Comments: This is a good site for learning about how to match base pairs in DNA. The game is fun and helps users learn about DNA and base pairing rules. It would help if additional learning materials about DNA (e.g., semiconservative replication) were added to the site.