written by: Destiny Keller•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 3/23/2011
Even with great professors and excellent note taking skills, sometimes students still need extra help when it comes to college level Biology. Thankfully there are some great software programs to help with learning this subject matter.
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MasteringBiology & BioTutor® Excalibur Edition
As a Biology Major in college, I can attest that college courses in Biology can be tough to learn and master. If you are struggling in a college level Biology class, try reviewing and rewriting your notes weekly, as well as reading and trying the questions at the end of each chapter of the book that goes along with your course. When these measures still aren't enough to boost your grade, you might want to ask your professor about college biology learning software that can enhance your learning experience. When it comes to biology learning software, there are only a few good choices out there. The two programs with the best reviews are MasteringBiology by McGraw Hill, and BioTutor Excalibur. Both are designed to help students with college level Biology; however, they work a little differently.
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MasteringBiology is used by over a million science students worldwide. It is designed to go with the McGraw Hill book Biology, which is used by many school systems worldwide for beginning biology courses. If your instructor uses MasteringBiology for their class, even just for an extra resource, it is great to have it too. If your class uses the Biology textbook and you are struggling in Biology, this is a great resource. The package can come with or without an ebook. If students prefer ebooks or want to try them, they can save a little bit of money on textbooks. With the ebook version, students can keyword search phrases, highlight, make personal notes, and review instructors notes if they have left any. Some teachers choose to assign homework assignments through this site. Depending on how challenging they want to make the course they can open up the ability to use hints, retry answers, and even try problems for extra credit. There are also sections students can use to quiz themselves, review chapters, visualize certain things with computerized videos, and even give themselves practice tests. Even if teachers chose not to assign any of this for work, it is still available to students for practice without any grade penalties. This is a great resource as college Biology software, and pairs well with regular lectures and coursework. For more information, you can visit the MasteringBiology website.
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BioTutor® Excalibur Edition, by Interactive Learning, Inc. is another great learning software for high school students and first year college students. Unlike MasteringBiology, BioTutor comes as an interactive CD. It is more designed as an outside resource to help students learn concepts they may be struggling with or that they want to review. BioTutor can be used outside of the classroom for extra help or practice, and can be used without any relation to a classroom, much like an actual tutor. BioTutor is more suited for a classroom not using MasteringBiology, where a student might be struggling with certain concepts, or wants more practice or review for their Biology classes. With this program students can also take practice tests and practice final exams.
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What is Right for You?
If you are in a classroom where MasteringBiology is being used, then your decision will already be made for you. MasteringBiology is an excellent resource, as I have used it myself for my freshman Biology courses. If your classroom does not use MasteringBiology, you can use the self study version of MasteringBiology or BioTutor® Excalibur Edition. Either option is a great choice; however, far more students have used MasteringBiology and it offers many more options for learning. In either case, it is a good idea to talk to your instructor and let them know you will be using the software to help you better understand class material. They can give you advice on what parts of the program can help you the most with your course studies if they are familiar with the program. Keep in mind that college biology learning software is designed to enhance the classroom learning experience. It should never replace class attendance, note taking, textbook reading, and other classroom expectations your professor might set. Good Luck with your biology classes, and study hard!