A comparison of the effectiveness of an interactive, online module versus a laboratory based exercise which introduces microscopy to first year biology students.


  • Fiona Bird


Microscopy is an essential technical skill for biology students to master because they will use it throughout their undergraduate course and potentially in their working life. The aim of this project was to compare student learning of microscopy from an interactive, online Introduction to Microscopy module with a laboratory based exercise. Effectiveness of the two methods (online versus laboratory class) was evaluated with observations of students setting up a microscope late in semester. A quiz was also administered at both the start and end of semester to quantify the learning achieved as a result of a combination of the introductory exercise and subsequent use of microscopes during the semester-long laboratory program. Overall, the online Introduction to Microscopy module achieved learning outcomes that were equivalent to or better than the laboratory program. Quiz results from both years revealed that understanding of the function of the condenser and iris diaphragm was limited and the in-class observations confirmed that students rarely adjusted the condenser or iris diaphragm when using the microscope. Feedback from students about the effectiveness of the online module was sought with an online survey. Although response rate was low, some students identified that the content, design and interactivity of the online module assisted their learning of microscopy.