Freshman Biology Lab
Our challenge was to convert a large lecture course into an active learning classroom experience that would
resonate with engineering students and engage them fully with the course material. Collaboration and
student dialogue needed to be fostered within small groups, yet allow whole class instruction enhanced by
annotated computer images or videos. To achieve this, we required reliable technology that would support
a dynamic curriculum with activities ranging from mini-lectures and demonstrations to group explorations
facilitated by internet access, all while meeting the needs of a traditional biology lab, including data
acquisition, use of compound microscopes, gel electrophoresis equipment and thermal cyclers.
We designed a system that can scale and transmit a variety of audio and video sources from a centralized
instructor location to sufficient workstations to accommodate 63 students. Controled by a DGX8 and
seven DxLink output cards transmitting via CAT6e cable to seven pods, each of the seven pods has three
workstations that radiate out from a central hub. The signal from the instructor station is received at the
hub and split by an AMX DXlink receiver and HDMI DA. The original signal (VGA, HDMI, DocCam, sound) is
converted, scaled and transmitted, then split and delivered to 71 workstation monitors.
At each workstation, computers allow internet access, connectivity to a data acquisition system and real-time
data analysis. Dual monitors stacked vertically give students a view of their local computer as well as the
signal from the instructor podium. Group discussions occur frequently at whiteboards and 65" interactive
TV monitors mounted around the room perimeter; digital capture and internet access facilitate student
interactions as they solve problems, create concept maps, plan experiments and interpret experimental data.
These tools support the constructivist approach of a studio classroom.
In this setting, technology facilitates student interactions and explorations and moves conversations past rote
repetition of textbook material to evaluation and synthesis of ideas. It supports discussion of how science
generates new information and the interface between biology and engineering. This technology has helped
our campus move forward with the implementation of innovative pedagogy and creative new learning spaces.
"When incoming freshmen walk into the new Studio Biology classroom, their eyes
open wide and they say “Wow! This for us?!!” They are clearly excited to use this
newly renovated space. The fast pace and range of activities keeps students actively
engaged. Students rarely have time to lose interest or let their attention stray from
the task of learning about biology."
– Corey Parham, Classroom Technology Engineer
3000 Research Drive
Richardson TX , 75082