Students using Clickers in BioChemistry

Faculty Name:

Vince Hilser, Katie Tifft, Emily Fisher

Course Name:


Course Delivery:

Face to Face (*currently Fully Online due to Covid)

Course Description:

The molecules responsible for the life processes of animals, plants, and microbes will be examined. The structures, biosynthesis, degradation, and interconversion of the major cellular constituents including carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids will illustrate the similarity of the biomolecules and metabolic processes involved in diverse forms of life.


Biochemistry is a large lecture course with more than 450 students each semester. One of the greatest challenges in teaching a course this large is keeping the students engaged. The instructors of this course recognize the value of active learning exercises and therefore use a wide variety of these techniques to keep students engaged with the course content and with each other. Another challenge is making sure the students are keeping up with the course material. An assortment of formative and summative assessment strategies are used in combination to regularly check in with students and benchmark their progress.

Challenges and how UDL Strategies Address Challenges:

(aligned to HUDL Focus Area(s)/ UDL principles)*

Focus Area 1

Include course and module learning objectives aligned to assessments

Evidence / How its Implemented

Course level and module objectives are aligned with assessments.

Alignment to UDL Principles

Focus Area 2

Provide diverse assessment strategies including both formative and summative assessments

Evidence / How its Implemented

Summative Assessments:

  • Written exams include a variety of question types (multiple choice, T/F, short answer, label diagrams, etc.), learning objectives listed for each exam, diagrams of structures that can be printed out and used as a resource during exam.
  • Weekly homework – set of questions as an online Bb test; can be submitted multiple times. Variety of question types – multiple choice, short answer, etc.
  • In class group assignments – solve problem sets in collaborative environment, use ‘IF-AT’ (Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique) forms to submit work

Formative assessment:

  • Use of iClickers
  • Weekly survey asks students if they have any questions, if any concepts are confusing
  • Self-assessment: Students complete practice problems and answer keys to try before exams.

Alignment to UDL Principles

Focus Area 3

Represent content in a variety of formats

Evidence / How its Implemented

Course material in the form of slides, textbook readings, and videos.

Pre and post lecture slides include text, videos, images

Alignment to UDL Principles

Focus Area 4

Incorporate active learning strategies
(also aligned to course or module objectives)

Evidence / How its Implemented

Challenge: This is a large class (450+ students) and the instructors were struggling to efficiently and effectively manage break-out groups during class. They created a ‘learning assistant’ program (modeled after the one at University of Colorado), where undergraduate students who have previously taken the course are hired to assist the instructors during class, monitor groups, facilitate discussions, answer student questions, etc. for the purpose of increasing classroom engagement. The feedback from students and instructors has been extremely positive – they have since expanded it to other courses and the department is committed to funding this program for the foreseeable future.

Other active learning strategies include:

Pre-class videos, iClickers, think-pair-share, in-class group problem sessions, group discussion, hands-on activities, demonstrations (ping pong ball activity)

During one biochemistry class, hundreds of students throw hundreds of ping pong balls across the room in a demonstration of thermodynamics and chemical equilibrium. Following up with calculations, clicker questions, and conversations based on the results of the ping pong ball experiments provides students with a memorable and approachable way to think about thermodynamics which is fundamental to understanding the structure and function of biomolecules.

Alignment to UDL Principles


  1. Discuss the structure and function of biomolecules (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids) and the relationship between molecular structure and function.
  2. Explain the purpose and procedure for common biochemical experimental techniques, choose and design an appropriate experimental approach, and interpret or predict the results of experiments.
  3. Evaluate protein interactions, enzyme function, and protein regulation conceptually and quantitatively.
  4. Summarize common themes in metabolism, describe specific processes that generate energy and biomolecules, and discuss regulation of metabolic processes at the cellular and organismal level.
  5. Describe the components and processes of DNA replication, transcription, and translation.

Student Feedback

“The lectures are very well structured so that student engagement is a priority, and the clicker questions and in-class worksheets are good benchmarks to gauge your level of understanding. I also think that the amount of resources provided really help put students in a place where they can succeed, from the practice problems to the recorded lectures to the in-class problem sessions”

“I liked the diversity of the concepts and the interactivity of the class. I also appreciated the problem sets to get in the mindset of the types of questions we meet encounter on exams.”

“The way this course is logistically set up (with pre-lectures, lectures, in-class worksheets, daily homework, and group problem solving sessions) is designed to keep you on top of work and all the content and assignments are relevant. It is a lot of material, but the course is set up in a way to make you successful with mastering and understanding the material. The best large science course at Hopkins.”

“Apple Wars [ping pong ball activity] was amazing — I loved seeing thermodynamics play out at macro-scale, and it made things easier to understand and very engaging. Worksheets and the problem-solving sessions were very helpful.”