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Molecular and Cellular Biology Animations: Development and Impact on Student Learning

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Cell Biology Education Volume 4, Number 2, ISSN 1536-7509


Educators often struggle when teaching cellular and molecular processes because typically they have only two-dimensional tools to teach something that plays out in four dimensions. Learning research has demonstrated that visualizing processes in three dimensions aids learning, and animations are effective visualization tools for novice learners and aid with long-term memory retention. The World Wide Web Instructional Committee at North Dakota State University has used these research results as an inspiration to develop a suite of high-quality animations of molecular and cellular processes. Currently, these animations represent transcription, translation, bacterial gene expression, messenger RNA (mRNA) processing, mRNA splicing, protein transport into an organelle, the electron transport chain, and the use of a biological gradient to drive adenosine triphosphate synthesis. These animations are integrated with an educational module that consists of First Look and Advanced Look components that feature captioned stills from the animation representing the key steps in the processes at varying levels of complexity. These animation-based educational modules are available via the World Wide Web at An in-class research experiment demonstrated that student retention of content material was significantly better when students received a lecture coupled with the animations and then used the animation as an individual study activity. (Contains 5 tables and 4 figures.)


McClean, P., Johnson, C., Rogers, R., Daniels, L., Reber, J., Slator, B.M., Terpstra, J. & White, A. (2005). Molecular and Cellular Biology Animations: Development and Impact on Student Learning. Cell Biology Education, 4(2), 169-179. Retrieved January 19, 2021 from .

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