Re-imagining my intro biology class – First steps

I spent the better part of the morning today beginning to re-imagine my intro biology class for the fall, even though I should probably be doing other things more related to research. I’m taking advantage of switching to a new textbook to revamp the whole class from the ground up. Here are my main objectives with the rewrite:

  • spend as little time as possible “covering” material in class
  • use class time to allow students to interact with concepts and apply ideas to real-world problems in small groups rather than transcribing lecture notes

My approach relies heavily on students having read the material before class, so I’m starting with the readings. The Principles site makes it relatively easy to customize the readings, including both the selection and order. It’s a little annoying that their metaphor is “customizing a book” and then “publishing” the custom text. I would like it better if it were easier to add, subtract, and move modules around more dynamically as I assign due dates and create assignments. But other than that, it doesn’t try to impose any additional structure on the course, which I like. I’ve complained before about the proliferation of buckets in the LMS (pages, content, files, documents, etc), and this site does not use such arbitrary categories.

The main thing I’m struggling with is predicting how much time I’ll need for each topic and set of objectives. It’s hard to get out of the mindset of, “How long will it take to walk through this topic from start to finish in front of the class” and instead think about questions, projects, and problems that would help the students apply and synthesize these concepts. I have to admit, at this point sticking with the tried-and-true lecture format sounds much easier, but I really want to try something new (and hopefully more effective).

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