Integrating Online Multimedia Simulations from BIOinteractive into a Secondary Biology Classroom


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Overview and Purpose

"Computer-based simulations [...] are powerful environments that imitate the real world and have potential to help learners to understand scientific concepts (Blake & Scanlon, 2007, p. 492). This mini-course utilizes the multimedia simulations found within the BIOinteractive website at to teach educators on the learning affordances that are found on the website. It also engages learners in activities that will teach them how to feel comfortable navigating the platform and eventually integrating a simulation of their choice into a lesson. This website provides teachers with resources to supplement student learning through the use of interactive media in modules that students can engage with. Each of the modules that are presented include connections to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which are the learning standards used across the United States. This course is ideal for educators who are open to learning about how technology can be integrated into the classroom. The learners may have had some experience with online platforms and simulations from their teacher education programs in either undergraduate or graduate programs. However, the learners must possess basic knowledge of how to operate a computer and navigate the internet. The learners will engage in 3 different units during this course. Each unit has its own learning objectives which build on each other in terms of complexity. However, all the units will work in guiding the learner into meeting the course learning objectives. These objectives will be met through engaging in various learning activities that supplement the instructional content that is provided on each unit page. The learning objectives will allow the learners to explore the assets within the BIOinteractive multimedia simulations and connect them to the content taught in this course.


Blake, C., & Scanlon, E. (2007). Reconsidering simulations in science education at a distance: features of effective use. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(6), 491-502.

Needs Assessment

Instructional Problem: Finding new and meaningful ways for students to deepen their scientific understandings in the classroom is a challenge for many educators. There is a need for engaging students in experiences that help students to conceptualize abstract biology ideas into more concrete understandings. Thus, the 21st century technology poses an interesting solution for biology teachers with the recent development of online simulations and interactive media. This project focuses on allowing educators to transition their lessons into a more modern format using online simulations on the BIOinteractive website to construct scientific knowledge.

The Nature of What is to be Learned: Instructors will learn how they can integrate the online multimedia simulations found on the BIOinteractive website into their science units. This mini-course will educate instructors on the benefits of utilizing simulations and how they can further students learning in the biology classroom by breaking down complex topics into a interactive learning format. Research has show that utilizing simulations within the classroom has been linked to increased student engagement, higher transfer of learned to real-world settings, and deeper understandings of abstract scientific ideas (Lunce et al., 2006, p. 38). These learning affordances are created within simulations by enabling students to conceptualize those abstract ideas through the manipulation of variables within the virtual learning environment.

About the Learners: This course will be intended for science educators that teach biology for grades 7-12 and use the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The learners may have had some experience with online platforms and simulations from their teacher education programs in either undergraduate or graduate programs. Although, learners must also possess basic knowledge of how to operate a computer and navigate the internet, they also need to have a desire to include modern technology into their classroom.

Instructional Content: This mini-course will be set up in a way that it introduces the BIOinteractive website, reveals the unique features found in the simulations, acts as a tutorial in how to integrate the simulations into a science unit and then gives teachers the opportunity to evaluate this tool with regards to it's instructional effectiveness. The method of instruction is didactic where the mini-course will include sample lessons in each unit as guide for the learners to inform them of the features of the BIOinteractive website. The activities are learner focused and will give learners the skills necessary to feel comfortable navigating the website and using the various features. They will also give learners the tools necessary to create their own lesson using the multimedia simulations found on the BIOinteractive website.

Performance Objectives

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By the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Understand what BIOinteractive, inquiry based learning and interactive simulations are
  • Understand the benefits of using BIOinteractive simulations in the classroom and how it engages students in deeper learning with regards to Bloom’s taxonomy
  • Explain how BIOinteractive multimedia simulations can be used to supplement student learning and promote scientific understandings in their own classroom
  • Apply what they learned from this mini-course to design a lesson, using the UbD method, that utilizes digital platforms (ex: BIOinteractive) and interactive laboratory activities for students in their classroom by the end of this course

Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

Unit 1: Introduction to Simulations and BIOinteractive

The interactive multimedia simulation that is used in Unit 1 to introduce the BIOinteractive features

This is the introduction to the BIOinteractive website where learners will explore the features on the platform. They will engage in navigating through various modules to become familiar with what this website has to offer and also learn about the purpose of these multimedia platforms. Learners will also understand how to locate information that explains what each multimedia simulation is about with regards to the content it contains and the learning standards that it connects to.

Unit 1 Learning Objectives:

  • Learners will be able to navigate around the BIOinteractive website
  • Learners will be able to locate the interactive simulations and describe the educational purpose of the website

Unit 2: Learning Affordances of Simulations and BIOinteractive

In Unit 2, learners will gain insight into the many learning affordances that the BIOinteractive website has. This unit will combine research with guided-inquiry based learning theory to explain how scientific understandings can be furthered by using multimedia simulations. Thus, this unit provides a overview of why technology is an asset to use in a secondary biology classroom.

Unit 2 Learning Objectives:

  • Learners will be able to describe the benefits of the BIOinteractive website
  • Learners will be able to understand the importance of technology and multimedia simulations and explain the connection to guided-inquiry based learning

Unit 3: Applying BIOinteractive to my own classroom

This unit will provide the learners with the foundation of knowledge needed to integrate a online multimedia simulation from the BIOinteractive website into their own classroom. The learners will utilize a graphic organizer that is aligned with the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework to guide them in creating a lesson with this BIOinteractive platform. This unit gives learners the necessary tools to transfer their understandings from earlier units in this mini-course to apply them into their own classroom.

Unit 3 Learning Objectives:

  • Learners will be able to select an applicable simulation to be used in their biology classroom to supplement student learning
  • Learners will be able to identify the elements of a UbD lesson and how they can design or synthesize their own lesson using BIOinteractive with the UbD process
  • Learners will be able to identify the learning outcomes of their selected BIOinteractive simulation and outline their instructional goals with a graphic organizer
  • Learners will be able to evaluate their progress in this course and abilities to transfer their learned skills into their own class by completing a checklist

Extended Resources

For more information on the benefits of the the BIOinteractive website, check out the research papers below.

  • Liu, D., Amagai, S., & Bricken, J. (2012). Engaging Teachers, Scientists, and Multimedia to Promote Learning. Science, 336(6088), 1509-1509.

File:2011 SPORE Collection Booklet 72dpi.pdf (Page 4 in the PDF file)

  • Raineri, D. (2001). Virtual laboratories enhance traditional undergraduate biology laboratories.


For more information on Understanding by Design Framework, see the link below.