The Cell Biology Suite

The Osmosis and Diffusion labs in the Cell Biology Suite (formerly known as OsmoBeaker®) of SimBio Virtual Labs use simulated molecular-level experiments to explore some of the trickiest concepts for introductory biology students to understand, helping them overcome common misconceptions. These labs use medically relevant examples that allow students to visualize and tinker with the mechanisms underlying diffusion and osmosis. Our National Science Foundation funded research shows that students understand these critical processes better after using the labs (Meir, et al. 2005).

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Tutorial: Mitosis Explored
We promise you have never seen a mitosis tutorial like Mitosis Explored. By integrating stunning live video from diverse organisms, interactive animations, and simulated experiments, Mitosis Explored smashes the "memorize the stages of mitosis" mold. This tutorial uses an inquiry-driven, self-guided approach to extend students' comprehension of the mechanics of this important (but challenging to learn) process. Students are able to tinker with the machinery that drives mitosis, solve puzzles, do experiments, and receive lots of instant feedback to check their own understanding. They also explore how mitosis relates to cancer and other diseases.

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Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Cell Cycle | Cell Division | Mechanics of Mitosis | stages/phases of mitosis
Courses: Cell Biology | Intro Bio: Cell/Molecular | Intro Bio: Non-majors
Reviews:
"It was very easy to understand and VERY user friendly (compared to many virtual lab experiences that I have looked at). I especially liked the areas where you presented students with a disease (i.e., Roberts syndrome) or a drug (i.e. Taxol) that interrupted the process and then had students predict the outcomes or figure out what was being interrupted. "
Jamie Jensen, BYU
Tutorial: Meiosis Explored
Meiosis Explored offers a refreshing new approach to teach this fascinating and fundamental (but challenging to learn!) process. Using engaging simulated experiments, puzzles, dozens of instant-feedback questions, and illuminating animations and microscopy images, Meiosis Explored investigates the how and why of meiosis rather than focusing on memorization of stages and terminology. This tutorial uses an inquiry-driven, self-directed approach that guides students through the events that take place in meiosis and elucidates why they occur in a particular order. One section makes connections with genetics, focusing on how meiosis produces variation in offspring. Another section focuses on disorders that arise from meiotic errors. The tutorial helps students actually understand the differences and similarities between meiosis and mitosis (and works well with the accompanying Mitosis Explored tutorial).
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Chromosomal Disorders | Crossing Over | Gamete Formation | Independent Segregation | Stages of meiosis
Courses: Cell Biology | Intro Bio: Cell/Molecular
Tutorial: Action Potentials Explored

This tutorial uses interactive simulations of neurons and cell membranes to engage students in exploration and discovery of how neurons use action potentials to communicate, and how ion channels generate action potentials. Students test their understanding using toxins and important medical examples such as multiple sclerosis. For a more in-depth and quantitative treatment, see Action Potentials Extended.

Table of Contents
Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Action Potential | Ion Channels | Membrane Potential | Neural Diseases | signaling | Synapses
Courses: Cell Biology | Intro Bio: Majors | Neurobiology | Physiology
Tutorial: Action Potentials Extended

This in-depth tutorial uses simulated experiments and interactive animations at different scales (macro to molecular) to help students understand the challenging concepts underlying the action potential. Designed as a sophisticated introduction to neuronal function, students learn about the equilibrium potential and then construct a functioning model axon using different ion channels. Students test their understanding with several simulated CSI-style mysteries and important medical examples. For a shorter, more qualitative treatment, see Action Potentials Explored.

Table of Contents
Level: Intro or Advanced
Key Concepts: Action Potential | Ion Channels | Membrane Potential | Neural Diseases | signaling | Synapses
Courses: Cell Biology | Intro Bio: Majors | Neurobiology | Physiology
Lab: Osmosis
This popular lab explores osmosis by letting students visualize molecules moving inside a cell and across the cell's membrane. Their ultimate challenge is to use what they learn about osmosis to compose an intravenous fluid that will not cause red blood cells to expand or shrink. In the course of the lab, students explore osmosis with no, one, two, and many solutes. In the process of exploring the underlying molecular mechanisms of osmosis and osmotic pressure, students manipulate concentrations and conduct experiments to investigate what is meant by "dynamic equilibrium" and throughout the lab use quantitative reasoning to predict experimental outcomes. See our Publications page to read how this lab has successfully conquered misconceptions! [One caveat: students who have trouble with ratios may need assistance.]
Key Concepts: Equilibrium | Osmosis | Overcoming Common Misconceptions
Courses: Intro Bio: Molecular | Intro Bio: Non-majors | Osmosis-Diffusion
Reviews:
"The students loved the [OsmoBeaker] simulations and I thought they got more out of them than even they did."
Heather Dietz, University of Regina
Lab: Diffusion
This lab confronts common misconceptions about diffusion using engaging simulated molecular-level experiments. The lab first focuses on how individual molecules move under different conditions. It then sets up a fun experiment that allows students to explore whether nerve cells could use diffusion to move materials from the cell body to the synapses at the tips of their axons. Students run races in axons of different lengths and record how long it takes for "peptide" molecules to diffuse down their length. A new concluding exercise explores diffusion in plant leaves, asking whether CO2 molecules that start among high concentrations of other CO2 molecules move faster than CO2 molecules that start among high concentrations of water molecules. By the end of the lab, students not only discover the need for cellular and organ level transport mechanisms, but also overcome some commonly held misconceptions (see our Publications page for details).
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Diffusion | Overcoming Common Misconceptions | Randomness
Courses: Intro Bio: Molecular | Intro Bio: Non-majors | Osmosis-Diffusion
Reviews:
"The students loved the [OsmoBeaker] simulations and I thought they got more out of them than even they did."
Heather Dietz, University of Regina

The mitosis and meiosis demystified simulations were fantastic. I am familiar with mitosis and meiosis, but the simulations were clear and to the point. The animations were especially helpful in learning the sequence of events.

Anonymous Student, Boston University

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