Hundreds of Resources Available for Neuroscience Teaching and Training
Are you a busy professor looking for tools and lesson plans for teaching neuroscience this semester? Or do you have a great resource you’d like to share? Look no further than a growing SfN project offering access to more than 500 videos, lecture plans, syllabi, and more.
“If you’re looking for a video to accompany your lecture on the visual cortex, here’s one that shows Hubel and Wiesel’s original experiments,” said Richard Olivo, professor of biological sciences and neuroscience at Smith College. “It has been a real eye-opener for students in my neurophysiology course.”
Olivo is referring to just one of the many teaching tools available on ERIN — the Educational Resources in Neuroscience web portal — an online compilation on SfN.org of resources for higher education. Olivo is the founding editor of this unique portal that enables neuroscience faculty to list, review, and rate materials they use to teach. It is funded through a generous grant from the National Science Foundation
As neuroscience educators know, an abundance of instructional materials is available online and from publishers that can be used to teach at all academic levels, from undergraduate to graduate to medical school. One can find syllabi, lab exercises, images, textbooks, videos, simulations, tutorials, software, review articles, and more through a variety of sources.
Yet it can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming to find and evaluate useful educational resources. Educational Resources in Neuroscience lists and reviews all resources in a single, easy-to-access location, which serves as a database of useful, important, peer-reviewed materials for teaching neuroscience.
“The basic concept of ERIN is for teachers and professors to share what they’ve found to be helpful in the classes they teach, both to improve their own expertise and especially to enhance their students’ learning,” said Olivo.
Seeking More Material and Reviews from SfN Members
The review feature that ERIN provides is a critical tool that enables faculty to know how valuable the material is in particular contexts and which types of audiences and classes might benefit from a specific resource.
The value of sharing that expertise underlies the intent of ERIN’s original design. Initially, the expertise was provided by a group of seven topic editors, who met with Olivo for a week at Pomona College in July 2011 to identify resources to be listed.
“My friends couldn’t believe I spent a week surfing the net,” said Laura Symonds, the ERIN editor for cognitive neuroscience, about her work to identify suitable teaching resources. Ultimately Symonds and her fellow editors listed more than 500 high-quality resources spanning all fields of neuroscience.
Olivo encourages SfN members to nominate resources they find useful in the classroom, and to contribute reviews of materials already listed on ERIN. “This is a great way for teachers to let their colleagues know about which teaching tools work well for their students,” he said. “Even a brief review of a textbook in the context of a particular course can be helpful to others. We want to know the course in which the resource was used and the strengths and weaknesses of the resource in that context,” he said.
The Origins of ERIN
The original idea behind ERIN began in 2005, when Olivo organized the first in a series of workshops on teaching neuroscience for the SfN annual meeting. As the Society continued to devote additional attention to the professional development of its members who teach in higher education, ERIN was a logical next step.
With the enthusiastic support of the SfN Council, and as part of SfN’s new higher education and training strategy, a grant proposal was submitted to NSF in 2010, with Olivo as co-principal investigator. SfN officially launched ERIN in April 2012.
Individual Impact, Global Reach
Less than a year into the project, ERIN has had more than 32,000 page views and more than 8,000 individual visitors from around the world (40 percent of the site’s visitors are from outside the United States). As new resources are added, editors are counting on ERIN’s growth as an online community. Olivo and the seven editors meet monthly via online video conference and exchange frequent emails as they continue to refine the site and add information.
Over time, ERIN seeks to help faculty share information about resources they find effective, thereby creating a community among faculty where they can exchange ideas about teaching and learning.
“Everyone who hears about ERIN thinks it’s a great idea, and thousands have visited the site,” said Olivo. “Now we’d like them to take the next step and become active participants, too.”