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National Science Foundation Funding Expands Collaborative Data Learning at Bethune-Cookman University

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Developing innovative learning experiences for students at Bethune-Cookman University is a goal of a National Science Foundation funded project titled "Developing Quantitative Expertise in the Undergraduate Biology Curriculum (QEUBiC)". The QEUBiC (pronounced as cubic) Project is enhancing the undergraduate biology curriculum through infusion of learning experiences for students to work effectively with complex biological datasets. The project lead investigators are biology professors: Dr. Raphael D. Isokpehi, Dr. Katharina C. Wollenberg Valero and Dr. Elizabeth R. Congdon. 

The project received initial funding in August 2014 of $400,000 that has led to the development and offering of new biology courses; acquisition of biology laboratory equipment; and access to advanced computing infrastructure for biology research. The project also led to new collaborations with B-CU faculty beyond the initial scope of the award.

Additional National Science Foundation supplemental funding of $237,973.00 has now enabled the QEUBiC project to foster collaborative data learning beyond biology sub-disciplines. The collaboration has expanded to include faculty in other disciplines including business and entrepreneurship, computer science and engineering, criminal justice, health sciences, math, and physics. For example, biology faculty collaborated with B-CU math faculty to explore student-centered instructional strategies for long-term retention of quantitative and computational knowledge components. These are increasingly needed for upper level biology courses. 

An outcome of the biology-mathematics faculty collaboration is the infusion of a special type of online intelligent tutoring system also called "cognitive tutors" in a sophomore level introductory statistics course. Kelly Carey, math instructor who piloted the cognitive tutor infusion, commented "The way students answer questions with the statistics cognitive tutor enables me to quickly identify strengths and weaknesses of students when learning topics in statistics ". She further states "Students are able to follow clearly defined learning objectives. Using a math anxiety pretest, I can better incorporate discussion on math anxiety, and utilize the abilities of the cognitive tutor software to alleviate some fears built up in the students as well as teach them help-seeking behaviors." 

The Principal Investigator of the QEUBiC Project is enthusiastic about the progress of the project in the third year. He noted "the extraordinary commitment of the multi-disciplinary project team of faculty and students at Bethune-Cookman University and external collaborators have enabled the project to report significant accomplishments". 

In acknowledging the impact of the QEUBiC Project at B-CU, Dr. Helena Mariella-Walrond, Senior Vice President and Provost, said "the commitment of the QEUBiC Project faculty to engaging students with learning technologies and research experiences is a significant contribution to Bethune-Cookman University's enduring commitment to student success". 

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About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit www.cookman.edu.