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CBE Life Sci Educ. 2014 Spring;13(1):111-30. doi: 10.1187/cbe-13-08-0152.

A course-based research experience: how benefits change with increased investment in instructional time.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130 Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130 Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Longwood University, Farmville, VA 23909 Chemistry Department, Lindenwood University, St. Charles, MO 63301 Science Department, Cabrini College, Radnor, PA 19087 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405 Department of Biology, Linfield College, McMinnville, OR 97128 Department of Biology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057 Biology Department, Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943 Department of Biochemistry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588 Biology Department, Worcester State University, Worcester, MA 01602 Department of Biological Sciences, St. John's University, Queens, NY 11439 Department of Biology, Adams State University, Alamosa, CO 81101 Department of Computer Science & Engineering, Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC 28216 Department of Biology, Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA 19131 Departments of Biomedical Sciences & Cell and Molecular Biology, Grand Valley State, Allendale, MI 49401 Department of Biology, Saint Mary's College of California, Moraga, CA 94556 Department of Biology, University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL 32514 Technology Leadership & Innovation Department, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907 Department of Biology, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 Department of Biology, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11549 Department of Biology & Molecular Biology, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ 07043 Department of Biology, Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, MO 64507 Department of Biology, University of the Cumberlands, Williamsburg, KY 40769 Department of Biology, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002 Department of Biological Sciences, Mount Holyoke, South Hadley, MA


There is widespread agreement that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs should provide undergraduates with research experience. Practical issues and limited resources, however, make this a challenge. We have developed a bioinformatics project that provides a course-based research experience for students at a diverse group of schools and offers the opportunity to tailor this experience to local curriculum and institution-specific student needs. We assessed both attitude and knowledge gains, looking for insights into how students respond given this wide range of curricular and institutional variables. While different approaches all appear to result in learning gains, we find that a significant investment of course time is required to enable students to show gains commensurate to a summer research experience. An alumni survey revealed that time spent on a research project is also a significant factor in the value former students assign to the experience one or more years later. We conclude: 1) implementation of a bioinformatics project within the biology curriculum provides a mechanism for successfully engaging large numbers of students in undergraduate research; 2) benefits to students are achievable at a wide variety of academic institutions; and 3) successful implementation of course-based research experiences requires significant investment of instructional time for students to gain full benefit.

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