California State University, Northridge biology professor Cindy Malone is developing a free, online biology course that covers high school biology curriculum to help high school students prepare for college-level biology majors.

The online class, Biology Open Online Prep Sessions (B-OOPS), is a massive open online course (MOOC) currently being offered to several Biology 100 and 101 students along with a few ninth grade students who are giving Malone feedback on the course’s effectiveness.

Once it is ready, Malone plans a soft rollout of the course, offering it first to CSUN students, before opening it up to all students across the country and beyond through the Canvas.net MOOC system.

The course gives students the option to control what, when and how they want to learn. B-OOPS targets students who want to expand their biology knowledge, refresh their memories about the academic material or utilize the course as a tutorial guide if they are struggling in biology.

“B-OOPS will be open to anyone in the world,” said Malone. “People who use the MOOC do not have to complete the entire course. If they want, they can just look through some of the sections. They don’t have to go through everything.”

Malone is currently working on enabling the course to give high school and transfer students CSUN life science general education credit. Students considering biology as a major can use the course to gain in-depth knowledge of their high school biology curriculum and it may help them decide if biology is the field they want to study in college, Malone said.

The course is free, but to receive academic credit, CSUN students must access the quizzes and the ebook at a set price of $57.

“People who do not plan to attend CSUN but are still interested in taking the course, can receive the same informative and educational benefits from the class without CSUN course credit,” Malone said.

“Our current Biology 100 curriculum [at CSUN] is almost identical to high school biology content, just with more in-depth thinking and higher-level evaluation,” said Malone. “When students take B-OOPS they can perfect their studying style.”

The online course is based on Malone’s textbook “Biology Now,” which features adaptive learning methods, benchmark assignments, flashcards, animations and quizzes. Tutorials and classroom lectures created by Malone are included in the course modules.

Although there are a few recorded in-class lecture videos in B-OOPS, the class primarily features quick videos on course topics.

Malone has anecdotally found that in an online course, long lecture videos were not as useful in helping students retain what they learned from textbook reading. Malone said that social scientific studies showed that short tutorials were more effective than long recorded lectures.

According to Malone the demands of the course are similar to courses with a traditional, in-classroom structure but it allows students to take the class at their own pace.

“It is extremely important to read the book, do the assignments and develop your own learning style with this voluntary course,” said Malone. “The course is a lot of work, but it should be more fun than work. We’re trying to get more relevance and a little more fun into biology. This course could help anybody, but people really have to put in the time to gain the knowledge that they wish to receive.”

For more information on release dates and registration for B-OOPS, please contact cindy.malone@csun.edu