Using Online Active-Learning Techniques to Convey Time Compensated Sun Compass Orientation in the Eastern North American Monarch

J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2016 Dec 2;17(3):430-435. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1149. eCollection 2016 Dec.


A common tool that animals use to navigate in a constant direction is known as "time compensated sun compass orientation." This is a process by which animals use the position of the sun along with information from their internal circadian clocks to determine and maintain a directional heading. Many circadian scientists and educators use this process as an example of how the internal circadian clock can directly influence animal behavior. However, many students have difficulty grasping this biological process due to its multivariable nature. We have created an online module that uses the principles of active learning to facilitate student comprehension of this process. Our module contains instructional videos, practice problems and an interactive diagram. We implemented the module in an undergraduate biological clocks class at Vanderbilt University, where its use significantly improved students' understanding of time compensated sun compass orientation as well as their ability to solve complex problems involving principles associated with this process.