NAU Biology BIO 372
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BIO372 : Class

The Class

Character of a Web Class

The most obvious difference between a web course and a traditional lecture course is that you do not see the professor in person. Instead, most communication is through e-mail. The disadvantage is that you don't discuss subjects face-to-face with the professor. An advantage is that an answer to a question is written so you can study it and think about it without forgetting what the professor said.

You will rely on the coursepack a lot, as that is the reference material for the class. Instead of lectures, there will be readings assigned with an outline guide in the lesson on the web. Assignments consist of questions specifically on topics in the readings or extensions of the concepts and principles in the readings. You learn by reading the articles AND by working through the assignments. Many of the assignments deal with biological issues in the real world: applying principles, writing hypotheses, examining evidence, and seeking solutions.

You will not get the feedback on assignments and tests that you would be used to when you can meet the professor in lecture. Having to communicate by e-mail is time-consuming. With multiple assignments from numerous students, it is impossible to send personal messages to every student on a regular basis. When you see your grade, you will have to review the assignment you sent in to see where your answers fit and did not fit the questions. After you have reviewed your work, you may wish to e-mail the professor.

Advantage of the Web Technology

There are many resources on the web that are relevant to biology. The web gives quick access to these resources without going to the library or buying another book. There are graphics, figures, graphs, and animations that illustrate text. Some images come from satellites, others from microscope slides.

As soon as a new site is put on the web, it is available to the class. Search engines can find almost anything, but you have to ask the right question and filter the results to find relevant web sites. You develop this skill with practice.

Taking a Web Class

Work at your own pace: There are deadlines for turning in assignments and taking tests. You should view (or print out) the assignments well in advance of the due date. Plan how and when you will complete the assignment so that you meet the deadline. You can work in the day, in the evening, in the middle of the night, and on weekends and holidays as long as you submit the assignments by the deadline. That's a lot of flexibility with minimal stress.

Format: A course taken on the web is different from a course taken in the classroom in at least the following ways.

  1. You need certain technical skills to use the computer - we will help you develop these skills.
  2. There are numerous small activities rather than a few large tests: you work with the subject matter instead of memorizing it.
  3. You will have to exercise self-discipline to work independently and keep up with the course - the course schedule will help you do that.

The lure of the web: If you find biology and the information on the web interesting, the sirens of the web will call you to spend your time there. You will find more sites relevant to the topics and the assignments, and some will be very interesting. You have to learn to recognize when you have the information required by the course and not spend many more hours than you should. Learn to judge when to stop.

Taking This Web Class

Difficulty of the class: If you have had the prerequisites for the class, the content will not present an intellectual obstacle. You will learn new material. Much of biology seems like common sense when you understand it. The challenge comes from having to apply these common sense principles to situations, having to focus your attention on specifics, and differentiating among alternatives on the basis of evidence. In other words, the primary challenge of the course comes not in learning new facts, but in using those facts.

Time to do the work You should plan to spend about 10 hours per week concentrating on this course. Each week there will be four assignments, which should take you no more than an hour each on the average. You should plan to spend at least 3 hours per week reading AND STUDYING the assigned chapters. That leaves you 3 more hours to LEARN (reflecting, analyzing, thinking about) biology. Remember, 3 of those 10 hours you saved by not sitting in a lecture for an hour 3 times a week.

As you develop your learning and analytical abilities and perfect your computer skills, you should become more efficient in your work and the class will take less time. You will have to consciously work to do that.

Assignments: Your answers will be sent to the instructor by typing them in text boxes on the web page. The safest way to prepare your answers is to write them in a word processor, such as WORD or WordPerfect. When they are ready to send, open one window containing the file with your answers in the word processor and in another window open Netscape. Copy and paste your answers from the word processor into the text boxes. In this way, you will minimize the chance of losing your work before you send it in.

Exams: There are no big exams. The tests all consist of 15 questions for 15 points. Questions are not tricky, but are designed for thoughtful answers in which, at least sometimes, you will have to distinguish among alternatives that may not seem so different at first. That's part of the learning process: to distinguish between similar alternatives based on the particular situation. Read the question accurately and understand what is being asked. The tests are open-book and you have at least two days to do each one.

Deadlines: Grading is done as soon after the due date as possible. All assignments are graded together to ensure a uniform standard for the class, so it is necessary that all assignments are together when they are graded. Assignments are available to students well in advance so as to allow you plenty of time to meet the deadline. Work sent after the deadline will receive a grade of zero.

Grades: You may check your grades in the class at any time by logging into the electronic gradebook. Received assignments are logged once a day, and will appear with the date received. After the assignments are graded, the grades will be entered and you will see your overall percentage grade calculated automatically on only the graded assignments. Using the electronic gradebook, you can check your level of performance in the class at any time.

Extra Credit: Meet the deadlines and keep up with the work. There will be no extra credit.

E-mail Account: I advise you to get an NAU computer account (on the dana machine), which is free to students in the class. Sometimes the commercial accounts are slow. They can take hours to transfer messages when the traffic is heavy, especially if the server is on the east coast.

Web Response: Web is fastest early in the morning, late at night, and on weekends.


If you are interested in the subject matter of the course but do not want to take it for credit, you could read the articles on your own and not have to complete the activities. You may still buy the coursepack.

If you decide to enroll in this course and successfully complete it, you can expect to achieve the following:

  1. Learn each of the topics in some depth
  2. Be able to apply your reading, research, and evaluative skills to other scientific topics as well as to non-scientific topics
  3. Gain a familiarity with several leading scientific magazines dealing with current and relevant issues
  4. Develop an ability to use the internet to search effectively for needed information
Keeping up with the course is essential to completing it successfully. If you know you will not be able to keep up by working independently, then enroll in a class delivered by more traditional means (e.g., in a classroom on campus). If you are confident that you can meet the challenge of taking this course on the web, then fill out the Student Profile/Agreement and welcome to BIO 372.
E-mail Professor Gaud at
or call (520) 523-7516
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