SOURCE: Smart Sparrow

Smart Sparrow

February 29, 2016 09:00 ET

Are We Alone? New Digital Science Course Reimagines First Year Biology Through Exploration of Life on Other Planets

College-Level Course Blends Cutting-Edge Science Pedagogy With Adaptive Technology to Address Persistent Barriers to College Completion

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwired - Feb 29, 2016) - The Inspark Teaching Network, a group of science educators transforming science teaching and learning, announced, today, the launch of a new, exploration-based course designed for non-science majors who often struggle in general science education courses.

A growing body of research finds that current approaches to teaching science fall short for many students -- often creating a barrier to college completion or discouraging would-be STEM majors from pursuing the field.

"As colleges and universities make the transition to digital courseware, there's an opportunity to reimagine how we teach subjects like science," said Dr. Dror Ben-Naim, CEO and founder of Smart Sparrow, the pioneer in adaptive learning. "Advancements in adaptive technologies will never replace great teaching but our platform is designed to provide educators a suite of tools to engage and inspire students in ways that weren't possible until recently."

Developed on the Smart Sparrow platform, BioBeyond represents an entirely new approach to online learning -- merging breakthrough simulations and adaptive technology with tools that allow instructors and instructional designers to exert pedagogical control over the learning experience. Using the platform, which is now used by over 500 institutions worldwide, instructors can easily make adjustments to course content and adaptivity on their own, and access real-time insight into student progress to identify those who may be falling behind.

The new course BioBeyond was developed to address persistent achievement gaps in general science education courses. Students are guided through an innovative curriculum, threading learning objectives through real-world science problems at the frontier of human knowledge. The course includes readings, problem-solving activities, simulations, and embedded assessments to answer the question, "Is there life beyond Earth?" Along the way, students receive real-time feedback, and the course adapts to the student's level of understanding.

"Too often, science is taught as a collection of known facts rather than a process of exploration that encourages curiosity, inquiry, and deeper learning," said Professor Ariel Anbar, a biochemist and director of Arizona State University's Center for Education Through eXploration (ETX). "This innovative approach aims to motivate students by teaching science as exploration of the unknown, not just mastery of what is known -- which we believe better engages students, particularly those who arrive to college less prepared."

The cost implications for Smart Sparrow's approach are profound. BioBeyond can save students upwards of $200 in textbook and lab manual fees. The course covers over 100 hours of teaching and learning, with 50 lessons and three interactive projects organized as well as two preparatory courses for students who may be underprepared. The course can be used fully online, in a blended format, or in face-to-face classrooms.

The Inspark Teaching Network, the world's first digitally powered teaching network, is led by Smart Sparrow and Arizona State University and is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Network allows educators and instructional designers to collaborate to build and share next generation courseware, centered on compelling scientific questions that motivate and engage students.

The BioBeyond course is currently in use by over 30 institutions, and will be available for broad use in the Fall 2016 semester. To learn more, see the BioBeyond introduction video and please contact Dr. David Schönstein at david.schonstein@smartsparrow.com

About Inspark Teaching Network
The Inspark Teaching Network, the world's first digitally powered teaching network, is a bold partnership between world-leading universities, community colleges, scientists, and education experts designed to transform science teaching and learning. The Network allows educators and learning designers to collaborate to build and share next generation courseware. The courseware harnesses the latest personalized digital learning technologies combined with active learning, centered on compelling scientific questions that motivate and engage students. The Inspark Teaching Network is led by Smart Sparrow and Arizona State University, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Learn more at http://inspark.education/vision.

About Smart Sparrow
Smart Sparrow is a learning design platform for next-generation courseware. It allows any educator to create amazingly engaging and adaptive learning experiences and then continuously improve them using learner analytics. Students are better supported and more motivated to succeed. Smart Sparrow believes in designing tools that support great teaching, and put faculty first to unlock the potential of adaptive learning. More at www.smartsparrow.com

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