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Peer Review

General Plant Biology

by Bill Randle


Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 3.75 stars
Ease of Use: 4.25 starsstar
Reviewed: Dec 17, 2012 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: Bill Randle has put together a well designed web site to supplement his General Botany course at Ohio State University. Material covered includes atoms and molecules, cells and tissues, plant anatomy and plant physiology as well as a large amount of information regarding plant classification. The information provided in this web site is geared toward under graduate studies.
Type of Material: Mostly text (web pages) with some images, tables and diagrams.
Recommended Uses: This material can be used as either a review after the topic has been covered in class, or as a preparation for an upcoming lecture.
Technical Requirements: A basic web browser. Real Player is needed for the narrated presentation.
Identify Major Learning Goals: None stated. The general learning goal would be to teach basic plant biology to undergraduate students.
Target Student Population: Lower division undergraduate students. The material is fairly low level and no background in plant biology is necessary.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Knowledge of General Biology would make the content more meaningful.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
  • The material covers the basics for a college-level Plant Biology course
  • Images included in the text based lectures are nice
  • There are a number of ancillary materials, such as floral diagrams
  • There are links and some micrographs included
  • The greatest strength of these lectures and materials is the diagrams, which are simple, colorful and extremely effective
  • The material presented is out of date, especially in the taxonomy section
  • Some topics in plant biology are not covered in very much detail, such as ecology, genetics; much more expansive coverage of taxonomy is included
  • Gnetophytes are left out of the course completely
  • Images provided with each section are not always high quality.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3.75 stars
  • The material is presented logically, using an excellent site map
  • The visual material is exceptionally effective
  • The text is concise and most chapters are relatively short
  • Quizzes are included after most sections of the course
  • Each topic provides good examples or analogies to help the student understand the various topics.
  • Images are used regularly to supplement the text.
  • Microscope images are a good addition.
  • Has the feel and appearance of a textbook. Since the course likely has a textbook associated with it, the students may not be engaged by having a second textbook resource.
  • The material, from top left to bottom right, seems a little out of order and sequence.
  • Not much in the way of multimedia material.
  • Quizzes are limited to a few questions and repeating them does not provide additional practice.
  • No learning objectives, goals or student learning outcomes are stated
  • The material is fact heavy, but does not draw connections between major concepts, as is frequently done in commercially published texts these days

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.25 stars
  • The course is easy to navigate, using the site map
  • The text is well written and generally accessible to a student audience
  • All links appear to work well on mac and PC
  • The quizzes do not have back buttons at the end, so the user must hit the back button multiple times to return to the material
  • The layout is jumbled in places, and the text does not always successfully wrap around images

Other Issues and Comments: This course was apparently created by a professor who is now emeritus and it appears the course has not been updated since 2002. This would explain the relatively simple format, the lack of more recent web 2.0 elements and the out of date systematics.