ASM events
This conference is managed by the American Society for Microbiology

a. Pre-SoTL Institute Assignments

Assignment 1.  Introduction

This semester I’m taking a banked leave, but in the fall I’ll return to teaching an online hybrid microbiology course to allied health students most of whom want to be nurses.  The students are wonderfully diverse, in just about every way imaginable, from a variety of national and ethnic backgrounds to a wide range of age and preparation.  Also, I serve as an ombudsperson. In that role, I listen to students complain about classroom and other problems, and try to help them find solutions to their dilemmas.

From the institute, I hope to find guidance in asking the right questions to make the best use of comparative data generated between semesters of the same microbiology course, one taught on ground and one with lecture material delivered online.  Like others, I want to be able to evaluate various teaching methods. Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes is a big issue on our campus.

Outside of the classroom, I enjoy (1) family activities (my late husband and I have five children between us, and seven wonderful grands), (2) competing in agility with my all American dog, Mocha (she’s won lots of ribbons and she’s even on YouTube), and (3) trying to figure out how to preserve MIDI music from a Roland U200 synthesizer so it can be played on newer and more reliable equipment, so we have music for choir on Sundays. 

As for books, Susan Conant writes murder mysteries set in Cambridge, MA, where I lived after college; the one I’m reading now is called “The Wicked Flea.”  I’ll be arriving in DC after leading a trek in New Mexico—Tony Hillerman country.

Assignment 2.  Reflections

My research problem derives from many years of classroom teaching followed by a year of teaching online:  How does online delivery of microbiology lecture information compare to traditional classroom delivery?

Randy Bass makes the distinction between Content knowledge and Method knowledge, a distinction that I think is important in microbiology.  I’m curious to revise his questions as an opening day exercise for students—such an exercise may be diagnostic of where students are to begin with.  That he compares and contrasts content analysis of student [written] work across semesters fits right in with my research problem, adding a dimension along with my plan to compare multiple choice (and now that I’ve read his work, essay) questions.  I’ll need some help in framing a question with a measurable answer. 

Of Spencer Benson’s 12 properties, I’d love to be able to say many of them, but clearly I’m not there yet.  At this stage building on the work of other educators (P4) is relevant, and a comparison is problem centric (P8).  Because my problem deals with online learning in microbiology, I believe it is relevant to other disciplines as well (P11).  On a personal note, I’m excited enough to be among the scholars that my peers have definitely heard about the problem so far (P7). 

Craig Nelson owned up to the serendipity of meeting Jane Aiken as a Carnegie Scholar near the end of his article;  the value of cross-disciplinary similarities is nonetheless valid.  I like to think that nothing is wasted:  Each of our experiences provides something from which to draw, even in another arena.  Similarly, our students’ experiences provide a background from which they learn.  Our task is to find out how best to tap that resource and help them learn.  

As for product, I’d like to be far enough along with data analysis and writing to present results at ASMCUE 2009, and look toward publication in JMBE.  I’ll welcome guidance to make it happen.

Assignment 3. Annotated Bibliography


What I discovered from this exercise is that there’s an enormous amount of information out there!It’s a bit overwhelming to find the best and most appropriate resources to use.But it sure is fun to look.Current research is like an electronic version of what wandering through library stacks used to be.You never know what gems you will find.

1.Alisauskas, Rita. 2007.“The love triangle”forging links to students using digital technology to deliver content in microbiology classes.Focus on Microbiology Education 13(2):13-15.


Rita Alisauskas found that her online students earned higher grades on exams than did her traditional students (p. 13).She podcast her lectures, and made the online materials available to all students—both traditional and online.Her online students took more advantage of the material than did her traditional students, and scores of the online students were three to nine points higher than scores of the traditional students (p. 13).

This article got me to thinking about trying to compare the similarities and differences between online and traditional classroom delivery.I soon discovered that there’s lots of information available!



2.Krawiec, Steven, Diane Salter, and Edwin Kay.2005.A “hybrid” bacteriology course:the professor’s design and expectations; the students’ performance and assessment (ED490001).Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 6:8-13.Available from June 28, 2008.


Krawiec, Salter, and Kay taught a basic bacteriology course both in the traditional format and as a hybrid.The hybrid form consisted of lecture content delivered online, an emphasis on online resources, and three weekly “face-to-face conversations to advance understanding.”No laboratory component was mentioned (for either format).

The authors compared the two courses over two years and did a statistical analysis of final examination results.Their data suggested no statistical difference in performance on the final examination.They also compared student evaluations, and found that students in the hybrid course “less strongly affirmed” than traditional students several measures:amount of work, positive interactions between student and instructor, learning a great deal, and recommending the course to another student.The evaluation protocol had 21 questions; on other measures, results were for the most part comparable.


The authors concluded that web-based instruction can have both advantages and limitations.The instructor matters, as evidenced by some of the less positive evaluations in the hybrid course, as compared to those from the traditional course.They suggested that clear directions on the one hand, and frequent feedback on the other might address the issues of dissatisfaction.


3. Schoenfeld-Tacher, Regina, and Sherry McConnell.2001-04-00.An examination of the outcomes of a distance-delivered science course (ED452069).Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Seattle, WA, April 10-14, 2001).


The authors compared both the results and the interactions among students in an upper level histology course.The sample size was small (n = 44 students), but the course compared the same material delivered online and in the “traditional, on-campus format.”Both groups took a pre-test (results were indistinguishable).The online students outperformed their on-campus peers.

Schoenfeld-Tacher and McConnell also investigated the interactions between in the course and among students and faculty, describing them as learner-content, learner-learner, and learner-instructor.In examining their exam questions, they applied Bloom’s taxonomy.

They asked three questions: (1) concerning achievement between online and on campus students, (2) how does online delivery affect classroom interactions (in number and quality), and (3) how the instructor (or lack thereof) affects the number and type of questions in online group interactions.

I had not thought to use Bloom’s taxonomy in looking at questions asked between sections of my comparable classes.But it’s a good idea.



4. Leger, Daniel.2008.PSYC 233 Aggression.Peer review of teaching project course portfolio.Available from:[Accessed June 28, 2008.]


The author compared the exam performance of students in a traditional classroom and an online version of the same Psychology 233 (Aggression) class at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, for the fall semester 2007 (classroom delivery) and spring semester 2008 (online delivery).His work is documented in an Inquiry Portfolio on the Peer Review of Teaching Project website.He found that online students did better than the traditional classroom students. He examined the study habits of his students in terms of when they logged in to the lectures.He found that online students who did well also paced themselves well.Most listened to one lecture a day, except perhaps for review.Those who did poorly procrastinated, and listened to several lectures right before the exams.Even online students cram for exams.       

Leger makes the point that an online student can access a lecture several times whereas a classroom student has only one opportunity to see the “performance” of the instructor.


Leger’s content (psychology) is a far cry from microbiology, but his comparison of access to content in a traditional classroom-delivered course and an online course speaks to my own experience in teaching both traditional and a hybrid class.In the traditional format, lectures are presented in advance of related laboratory exercises—access to content is controlled by the instructor. In an online class, however, students may not view the lectures before attending the related lab—access to content is controlled by the student.How that relates to student success in the class can be investigated.        



5.Johnson, Mary T.2008.Impact of online learning modules on medical student microbiology examination scores.Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 9:25-29.


Johnson compared results from students at a large midwestern medical school where students taught medical microbiology at nine regional campuses are given a common final exam.Her study included “71 learners from two different campuses who were taught by the same instructor and were admitted to medical school with similar exemplary credentials” (p. 25).Her hypothesis that students who prepared for the final exam using online learning modules—web-based quizzes—scored higher on the final exam than traditional students using paper-based review materials was supported. 


Johnson has an extensive and useful bibliography (to be examined further).Her results also support two of the papers that I skimmed for this assignment(Dym 2002-2003, and Margulies and Ghent 2005).Although I have not (yet) looked at the time factor for my students, it is something to be considered.


Dym, Jeffrey.2002-2003.The effectiveness of weekly online computer quizzes in helping students learn content.Poster presented as part of the Visible Knowledge Project.Available from:[Accessed July 1, 2008.]


Results of one of the papers that I skimmed (Margulies and Ghent 2005) determined that for a medical microbiology class, students did better with 6-7 short exams than with three midterms and a final exam.Dym’s paper reiterated the theme.Although this information may not be too useful in examining the difference between online and on ground content delivery, it is something I am considering for teaching in a future semester for my class.As such, it’s information I need.


Margulies, Barry J., and Cynthia A. Ghent.2005.Alternative assessment strategy and its impact on student comprehension in an undergraduate microbiology course (ED49000).Microbiology Education6:3-7.


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