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Peer Review

Sea Urchin Embryology



Overall Numeric Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Mar 23, 2013 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: This Stanford University site is aimed at providing all of the information needed to conduct embryology labs at several levels. The sea urchin embryology portal is what an “ideal” lab manual, online or print should be. The first item on the page is “how to use this site” which summarizes the information, provides links to ancillaries, and explains how the materials are organized. Although the lab is designed for high school biology, it is applicable to all levels, even graduate students who are majoring in science education. The goal of the core laboratory activity is to provide hands-on experience on fertilization and the stages of embryology using the sea urchin as the animal model. The core lab can be a standalone activity but additional labs and extended research activities are provided for students who are inclined to follow up and satisfy deeper scientific curiosity. Teachers and students are provided with supporting materials and lessons, with tutorials on lab techniques and other related information to make the whole laboratory experience exciting and enjoyable.
Type of Material: The site is difficult to characterize. It contains lab exercises with detailed protocols and suggestions for optional activities. It is also a reference site for anyone wanting to integrate these lab materials into their courses.The sister virtual site allows students to do some of the activities without specimens.
Recommended Uses: This is an in-class laboratory exercises for high school and college biology, supplements and general references for other biological science classes. It can be used science education students majoring in Biology. Some of the features include:
  • Direct basic lab exercise for a single week
  • Multiple week lab exercises
  • Investigative lab exercises
Technical Requirements: This site requires a browser with flash capability.
Identify Major Learning Goals: The student will learn animal development through observation and hands-on experimentation. Each lab exercise has a summary but there are no specific learning goals listed. However, each exercise does indicate the purpose of doing the lab within the text of the lab.
Target Student Population: This material can be used for high school and lower level undergraduate biology courses.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: No pre-requisites needed in terms of content. The site provides all introductory information about how to handle the organisms, the gametes, and what to expect. It even has a basic tutorial on microscope use. Some additional pre-requisites may include basic math for serial dilution, handling the microscope, basic lab safety. Computer skills are useful but not essential in completing the wet lab.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
  • The website is organized methodically, the teaching resources supplements are easy to access, and the language is written at the level that is understandable to beginning biology students
  • Contents are accurate and detailed
  • Includes extensive background information on both the organism and procedures
  • Both "cookbook" and investigative suggestions for labs
  • Virtual Urchin sister site has extensive images and ability to compare them on same screen
  • No concerns were found regarding content quality at the time of this review

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.75 stars
  • The lab protocols are detailed and easily applied to different levels of classes
  • Includes core experiment showing basic embryology
  • Has suggestions for more advanced, investigative labs
  • Animations are effective
  • Teaching resources in this module are excellent tools not just for teaching embryology but for any beginning biology laboratory; for example, the resources on microscopy, dilution, and drawing can be standalone tutorials for any biology laboratory
  • The site does not indicate approximate costs of the materials for labs
  • To do this lab with multiple sections would require lab assistant help and training of both TAs and part-time faculty

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
  • Detailed procedures are easy to follow
  • The additional and optional laboratory exercises provide flexibility for adoption and addition into any existing laboratory
  • Organization of materials in each section of the site is clear and shows both time sequence and potential problems/solutions
  • All links within the site were active
  • Suggestions for further investigations are made
  • Glossary is present
  • Animations are effective
  • "How To Use This Site" link really helps get oriented to the diversity of materials that are available
  • The module is accessible in any browser and does not require sophisticated plug-ins
  • When first entering the site, it takes some time to get oriented to all of the materials that are available

Other Issues and Comments: This could be a an excellent tool for the addition of new, experimental labs to a program. It provides everything from the basic ideas to detailed protocols to troubleshooting procedures.