BioLEAP: Biology Learning Engagement and Assessment Platform

Michael Corrin, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream; Marc Dryer, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream; Jodie Jenkinson, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream; Fiona Rawle, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream – Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga

Students entering their first year of undergraduate biology have difficulty coping with the demands of undergraduate life sciences curriculum. Many do not understand how their current coursework and laboratory activities connect to other courses, ultimate learning goals as they progress through their undergraduate studies, and expected skill set outcomes. In part this is due to the nature of undergraduate learning environments, which are often characterized by lecture-based courses with high enrollment, that are not always conducive to higher order learning of complex subject matter. In part this is also owing to a lack of necessary visualization or visual literacy skills on the part of the student.

The Biology Learning Engagement and Assessment Platform (BioLEAP) is a proposed environment for scaffolding student learning by establishing a platform that integrates curriculum with scientific visualization and educational resources to promote self-directed learning in undergraduate biology. We expect that this project will foster cross-disciplinary collaboration between Biology and Biomedical Communications, where there are presently a number of ongoing projects, targeting core knowledge and skills in undergraduate biology. However these projects are each operating independent of one another and not well integrated with the curriculum. By integrating these efforts in a learning environment that is designed to scaffold students’ understanding of curricular material we anticipate that the student experience will be greatly enhanced.

The success of BioLEAP will be measured by its capacity to engage students in self-directed learning, and foster the development of transferable skills. As well, we anticipate that this framework may serve as a model for “re-imagining education”, in other related domains, such as chemistry or physics, where students’ success depends upon their ability to envision and manipulate complex, multidimensional information spaces.