In this section, Dr. Diviya Sinha describes several additional resources available to students in this course.
Although this course is all about problem solving, students need to know the language of biology in order to understand biology. We maintain lists of “Terms to Know” that include key terms from every single unit in the course. This is particularly helpful to the students who have never taken biology or who haven’t taken biology in a long time. Once students hear a lecture, they can try to fill in the definitions for the relevant terms so that they understand the language used in each unit.
We post a range of extra enrichment material on our course website, purely for enrichment; the students are not responsible for looking at or mastering this material. Sometimes we share news articles that highlight real applications of what they’re learning in class. There are many students who like to view things, so I post lots of videos. If we choose to include something that isn’t very current, it’s usually a classic like Watson and Crick’s work on the DNA helix. I mention these materials in recitations, and sometimes the professors mention the materials during lecture as well.
During the Spring 2013 semester, we had an online student forum for the first time. It was an open forum, so students could post any questions they had about the course or course material, and anyone could answer and read the responses. This was sort of like a living reference, with questions and answers posted based on students’ needs.
I made sure all the questions were answered, by me if not by another student. When students answered each others’ questions, I went through each answer to make sure no incorrect information was being shared. The TAs didn’t participate in the forum this time, but I may ask them to help in the future.
Overall, the students seemed to find the forum very helpful. It was a lot of work for me to answer questions and review the students’ responses, but on the other hand, it reduced my e-mail load because I didn’t have to answer the same question again and again via e-mail.
Students are welcome to e-mail me, their TAs, or the faculty with their questions. I try to respond to every student e-mail within a short time so that they can read my response and proceed with their problem set work or exam preparation. Sometimes, students ask very specific questions that I can’t answer without giving away too much. In those cases, I can respond, “Why don’t you look at this question this way and try to resolve it?” If it’s a question that another student has already asked on the student forum, I may direct students over to a particular thread on the forum.
The students also get some bulk e-mail announcements that I send out to everyone at once, such as when a problem set is posted or when I’ve posted grades for a problem set.