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BioBook is an adaptable, digitally supported approach to teaching and learning that gives control back to students and teachers. Its core framework has been built from the ground up to promote and support an active learning cycle. The central concepts are organized in a modular root-branch-leaf node tree structure that reinforces the inter-related nature of biology. Students do more than just learn biology concepts. They develop thinking skills that help them succeed in biology and beyond. In short, they learn HOW to learn.

Recruiting Partners?

YES (Go to current listing)

Project Links

BioBook Project marketing and adoption site

BioBook Basic Edition (open access)

New version in Bootstrap (demo)

Rationale for This Project

General biology is 1 of the 5 major “gateway” courses for college success. Estimates vary as to how many students take biology each year; according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 1.6 million students earned bachelor’s degrees in 2009. Of these, we estimate:

  • >340,000 (over 20%) took general biology:
  • 81,000 students (5% of all graduates) received their degree in biology.
  • 121,000 students (7.5% of all graduates) received degrees in clinical and health science programs, which require students to pass general biology.
  •  If 10% (a conservative estimate) of remaining graduates took general biology to meet general science requirements, it adds another ~140,000 students.

Total enrollment is not the only reason biology has an outsized impact on college success. Students (often in their first year) face large classes with overwhelming technical language, dozens of foreign concepts, and little to no guidance in how to learn effectively. On average, 30% of students (~1 in 3) who take biology will fail it their first time. Many decide to leave STEM- or health-related career tracks, others leave college entirely.

We believe that restructuring the textbook to incorporate research evidence and proven best practices can increase the number of students who pass general biology successfully.

Project Activities, Goals

With funding from WFU, NGLC, and Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, we developed a repository of ~300 content pages, with sufficient content coverage for a 1-semester non-majors course. BioBook is designed to support how students learn naturally, and provided unparalleled flexibility to match many different learning styles. Instructors can adapt, tailor, and expand BioBook to fit their unique course goals and student population. BioBook already has been used successfully both as a course supplement, and as a low-cost standalone course textbook replacement.
We release a new edition each summer.

We release a new edition each summer. BioBook 2018 will be a major upgrade. First we are moving to a fully mobile-friendly format (based on Bootstrap.) There also will be TWO versions. BioBook for Non-majors will build on our past success. Our new BioBook for Majors will align with the 2011 Vision and Change model for science education.

Some Research Questions We Are Exploring

  • What are the barriers to adoption of open-source electronic textbooks?
  • What makes students more or less likely to self-assess early in the learning cycle?
  • What learning supports do students use most frequently?
  • Are textbook-related activities an early predictor of student success?