The Society for Neuroscience is establishing ERIN, Educational Resources in Neuroscience, a Web-based portal that will enable faculty who teach neuroscience to list, review, and rate materials they use in their teaching. It will help faculty share information about resources that are effective in specific undergraduate courses, as well as create a community of practice in which faculty can exchange syllabi, lab exercises, and ideas about innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Materials will be peer reviewed for scientific validity and educational merit before posting, and the listings and reviews will be freely available on the web.
INTELLECTUAL MERIT The explosive growth of knowledge in neuroscience in the last half-century makes ERIN's information about rapidly evolving resources essential for both faculty and students. The pace of new discoveries creates a constant need to update the content of courses and to teach beyond the material in textbooks. In addition, "millenial" students routinely expect to encounter online exercises, images, videos, and other resources, which can be difficult for faculty to find and evaluate. ERIN will provide informed access to such resources. It will be searchable in multiple, familiar ways and will serve as a "Web 2.0" community for faculty to discuss issues related to their teaching. ERIN answers recent calls from the biology community that "professional societies should provide professional development opportunities for faculty to enhance their expertise" so that faculty can look beyond existing textbooks for course resources and engage in peer-to-peer mentoring about teaching and learning (see the "Vision and Change" website maintained by the American Association for the Advancement of Science).
BROAD IMPACT News about Erin will be widely disseminated by the Society for Neuroscience and will be linked to the current BEN portal so that it can serve the widest possible audience of biologists.
This project is being co-funded by the TUBE Program of the Emerging Frontiers Division of the Directorate for the Biological Sciences as part of th Vision and Change efforts
The availability of online resources and new digital technology has changed the way undergraduate science courses are taught. Instead of relying principally on a textbook and lectures, courses now routinely incorporate videos, active learning exercises, interactive software, and other components that clarify ideas and engage and motivate students. In the field of neuroscience (the study of the brain and nervous system from molecules to behavior), the rapid pace of dramatic new discoveries requires that faculty constantly update their courses. ERIN, Educational Resources in Neuroscience, was developed by the Society for Neuroscience with National Science Foundation funding to help faculty find appropriate materials to enhance their teaching. The ERIN database points to resources of many media types (videos, books, syllabi, lab exercises, interactive software, etc) for teaching at the college and university level. Each resource description is accompanied by data fields specifying title, URL, authors, educational level, media type, main topic and subtopic, and publication date. Many resources are also accompanied by reviews of their strengths and weaknesses, written by faculty who have used the resource in a class. Resource descriptions are edited and approved by a board of editors, neuroscientists who have expertise in various topic areas, to guarantee that ERIN lists only materials that are scientifically credible and pedagogically effective. In this way, ERIN is more useful in pointing faculty to high-quality resources than more general strategies for searching the Web. After a year of development by the Society for Neuroscience and two years of open access for faculty and the public, the ERIN database held descriptions of over 650 neuroscience resources, with more added each year. In its first two years, the website attracted almost 27,000 unique visitors, who viewed 79,000 pages. Responses from faculty have been very enthusiastic, both from young professors planning new courses, and from experienced faculty updating existing courses. By sharing faculty expertise, ERIN improves the quality of teaching, student engagement, and student learning in the academically popular and rapidly expanding field of neuroscience.