Modifications to BioInteractive Resources For Online Classes
In this Educator Voices article, BioInteractive staff and Ambassadors share suggestions for adapting and implementing BioInteractive resources for an online learning environment, including using our fillable PDFs; adapting Data Point activities to online courses; modifying our card activities for use online; and accessing Google Docs versions of our resources.
Using Fillable PDFs
Kathy Van Hoeck
Educators are rapidly transitioning to teaching their courses online; many, many students will not have access to printed course materials. And some educators may want their students to submit their work online to a learning management system (LMS) like Google Classroom, Schoology, etc. BioInteractive has numerous activities that have student handouts and worksheets that can be downloaded as fillable PDFs: digital documents that students can type in and submit.
Here is an example of one activity that uses a fillable PDF for a student handout, which you can download from the “Materials” box on the right.
If you are asking students to turn in their work, consider downloading the "Student Handout" PDF and uploading it to your learning management system or emailing it to students directly. For some resources, the “Educator Materials” PDF contains answer keys for the handout. If you would prefer to have students complete the handout and check their work against the answers, so that they reflect on what they did well and where they struggled, it may make more sense to link them to the resource page.
Once students open the document on their own device, they should see several gray boxes, as shown in the screenshot below. The gray boxes are fillable fields, which are places where students can type their answers right into the document.
The first thing students should do is save a local copy of the PDF. In order to keep track of whose assignment is whose when students submit, it’s helpful to have them rename the document with their own name. For example, you could tell students to rename the document with the following format: skincolorselection_LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME.pdf. If students do not save a local copy, they risk possibly losing all of their work.
Students can then complete the activity by typing in the document. When students are finished, they should save their work. In some cases, they can right-click anywhere on the document and click “Save As” from the menu. They might also be able to click a “Save As” icon on the top menu bar. (In some cases, they may need to select “Print” and then “Print to PDF” instead of “Save As.”) For the first fillable PDF activity you use, you may want to encourage students to copy and paste their responses into a separate document if you’re concerned about them accidentally not saving their responses properly. After saving, students can then upload the document to an LMS or email it for you to assess.
Using Data Points in Online Courses
In this video, Ohio educator Chris Monsour explains how he’s adapting BioInteractive Data Points for use in online courses.
Taking BioInteractive Card Activities Online
In order to maximize the flexibility of our activities, BioInteractive wanted to make more resources compatible with virtual settings — particularly our activities that involve students using card sets. We’ve made a selection of our card activities available with the cards as image (JPG) files. Educators can download a ZIP file containing the individual card image files and then upload these images to their learning management systems (e.g., Google Classroom); add them into online presentations; save them to Google Drive, Dropbox, or other cloud-based storage space, or send them to students via email or messaging apps. These card images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license. We would ask that you attribute these to BioInteractive and not use them for commercial purposes.
A few suggestions for how to use these card images in your courses:
- Use Google Slides, Drawings, or other virtual whiteboarding or collaboration software to provide a platform on which students can move and annotate cards individually or in collaborative groups.
- Example: For the “Color Variation Over Time in Rock Pocket Mouse Populations” activity, students can order the cards from least to most recent and annotate them with their observations.
- If your students have access to printers, have them print/cut out a set of cards and then email pictures of their sorted cards and/or upload them to whatever learning management system you’re using. For activities that require a large number of cards, it might be easier for students to print out the PDF of multiple cards instead of the individual JPGs.
- Example: For the “‘Fixing’ Gene Expression” activity, students can print and cut cards (there are only eight cards for the activity), then order and annotate them to trace the flow of information from gene to protein.
- Assign students one or more specific cards to examine using a spreadsheet or other organizing document, or by putting cards into virtual folders (e.g., on Google Drive or Dropbox) for each student.
- Example: For the “What Leeuwenhoek Saw” activity, students are asked to look through all cards and then select an individual card to make a scale model. You can assign individual students or groups specific organism cards for them to construct their scale models.
- For activities in which students have to select cards at random as part of a simulation, provide a folder of the card images with numbers in their filenames. Have students use a random number generator (Google has one that allows you to set a min-max range for the number of cards you’re using) and pick the cards that match the generated numbers.
- Example: For the “Nutrient Cycling in the Serengeti” card activity, students pick and examine various cards depicting nutrient cycling processes, soil microbes, and detritivores. Some cards need to be discarded at the end of each round of the activity. Students can do so by moving them into a “discard” folder during the round. If the number generated by the random number generator corresponds to a card they’ve already discarded, they should generate a different number.
There are many more ways educators are likely to use these cards. We’d like to hear from you about how you’re using them!
Google Docs Versions of BioInteractive Resources
As educators are transitioning courses to online settings, we've made a growing collection of our student-facing documents (handouts, worksheets, etc.) available as Google Docs, so that they can be copied, modified, and uploaded more easily on a variety of platforms and devices.
An example of this can be found in this activity; there is a link to the Google Docs versions of the handout, in both English and Spanish, in the "Materials" sidebar under “Resource Google Folder.”
Each folder of documents includes instructions about how to save copies of these versions for editing.
Kathy Van Hoeck taught high school biology for 24 years. Since retiring in 2017, she keeps busy consulting, writing curricula, and giving (and attending) professional development. Kathy loves traveling and spending time with family, especially at her cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
Chris Monsour has been a high school biology teacher at Tiffin Columbian High School in Tiffin, Ohio for 21 years. He has been working with HHMI since 2009 as a BioInteractive Ambassador. His hobbies are reading, traveling, and camping.