Instructor FAQs

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• What courses can Avida-ED be used for?

Avida-ED was designed primarily for undergraduate biology classes and has been used successfully in both major and non-major courses at both introductory and upper-division levels. It has also been used in undergraduate computer science to teach digital evolution. We have also seen it used very effectively in high school Advanced Placement biology courses.

• Is there evidence that Avida-ED is effective in the classroom?

Results from a national classroom effectiveness study show significant learning gains as well as increased acceptance of evolution from students’ using Avida-ED. A paper reporting on this is currently in press in American Biology Teacher.

• How should my students get Avida-ED?

To solve the problem of cross-platform compatibility, we have recently completed a new version—Avida-ED 3.0—which run in a browser instead of as a stand-alone application. It was released as a public BETA version on June18, and continues to be updated.

• What platforms does Avida-ED run on?

Firefox 46.0.1 and later or Google Chrome 51.0.2704.84 or later are the recommended browsers. (Eventually it will run on all major browsers, but there are currently known problems in Safari and IE.)We expect to release a final version later this winter, but the BETA is stable and has been successfully implemented in courses since the Fall, so this is the version that we recommend all instructors now use.

The previous version—Avida-ED 2.0—was a stand-alone application optimized for Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). It runs on the current Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) with a few display anomalies. For PCs, only Avida-ED 1.0 is available. It was developed for Windows 7 and was updated to run on Vista. It has not been maintained since then, but will still run on current versions of Windows, though with some display anomalies. We originally had a version of Avida-ED 1.0 available for Linix, but that is not longer supported. No version is currently available for Chromebooks or for iOS devices.

• How much does it cost?

Avida-ED is free.

• Are there any curricular materials available that I can use?

We have developed model exercises (e.g. homework assignments, labs, projects) to demonstrate how to use Avida-ED to teach about evolutionary concepts and the process of scientific testing. These have been classroom tested and peer-reviewed that may be freely used and modified under a Creative Commons license (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike). See the Model Exercises & Curriculum page for the descriptions and download links.

The topics and pedagogical approach follow the recommendations set out in the Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education report put out by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) with support from the National Science Foundation.

We also have instructor support materials for each exercise that provide background information, exercise variations, and answer keys. We provide answer keys only to registered instructors. To register, please contact <pennock5@msu.edu>.

• How can I contribute to the project?

We’d love to have your help. Submitting bug reports to help us improve Avida-ED is always appreciated, but also please contact us if (i) you have developed a new lesson to contribute to model exercise bank, (ii) you’d like to be an early-adopter and help us test new versions of Avida-ED, (iii) you would allow us to use your class as part of an assessment study.

• What future features are planned?

We have a long list of major features that we hope to add in future versions of Avida-ED, including sexual reproduction; genetic engineering; network sharing; localized resources, changing resources and other environmental controls, to name just a few. Avida-ED 4.0 will focus on environmental options to allow new evolutionary ecology exercises. Feel free to send us any feature requests, especially ones that could extend the sorts of evolutionary concepts you’d want to be able to teach.

Page updated 2017/1/27
© Robert T. Pennock