JoVE in Action: Using JoVE to Develop a Low-Cost, Online Biology Course for Non-Majors

Supriya Kamath, JoVE Writer | 5 min read
Supriya Kamath, JoVE Writer | 5 min read

JoVE in Action is a series of blog posts highlighting how STEM educators around the world have used JoVE to support their remote teaching efforts. We hope these stories will be useful for instructors looking for effective ways to deliver their science and lab courses online or in hybrid formats.

Professor Rukmani Kuppuswami is a full-time faculty member in the biology department at Hill College, a community college in Hillsboro, Texas. Each year she teaches a variety of biology courses — from Introductory Biology for non-majors to Human Anatomy & Physiology. In addition to 25 years of teaching in in-person classrooms, she also has 12 years of experience teaching courses online and in hybrid formats. 

When COVID-19 struck, however, bringing courses online wasn’t the only challenge that had to be overcome. “One aspect that strikes me about this [COVID-19] disruption are student finances,” said Prof. Kuppuswami. “Many of the students I serve have jobs that they hold to sustain themselves entirely or partially. My understanding would be that those jobs are either not available at all, or available in a highly severed form.”  

To meet the needs of students whose finances had been greatly affected by COVID-19, Hill College decided to develop high-quality online courses that students could take at virtually no cost. Faculty at the college were asked to submit proposals for a study grant award to create these near-zero cost online courses. Prof. Kuppuswami developed a proposal for an online, lecture-based Introductory Biology course for non-majors, incorporating a number of JoVE videos, and her proposal was accepted.  

“The bulk of the resources I plan to furnish will be JoVE resources that effectively cover all the objectives and topics for the Introductory Biology course,” said Prof. Kuppuswami of her proposal. Her course will utilize material from JoVE Core: Biology — a video textbook that explains key concepts in biology, using engaging animated lessons and videos of real lab experiments — as well as JoVE Lab Manual: Biology, which has step-by-step illustrations of commonly-taught lab protocols and associated concepts. For instance, she plans to illustrate the topic of DNA Technology and Genomics using a JoVE Lab Manual video on DNA Isolation and Restriction Enzyme Analysis, and videos from the Biotechnology chapter of JoVE Core: Biology.

Because these resources are provided via Hill College’s institutional subscription to JoVE, students can access them at no cost through the college library database. The chosen videos are to be embedded in Schoology, the institution’s learning management system. In addition to the material covered by the videos, Prof. Kuppuswami also finds it useful that JoVE allows instructors to create quizzes and tests, and that many videos include links to scientific articles under ‘suggested reading’ that could be assigned to students for research assignments.

“My suggestion is that other community colleges facing similar tough times may want to consider adopting JoVE resources for student and faculty use,” said Prof. Kuppuswami. “I have been using JoVE for a few semesters and have found them extremely useful and enriching. I have only heard favorable reviews from students who have supplied their feedback about the JoVE resources.”

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