How do the FMCC SCI Biology Courses Differ?


     There are three different SCI - Level courses in Biology offered at FMCC.  SC courses are intended for non-science majors, and fulfill requirements for science electives.  (The other Biology offerings, the BI courses, are for science majors, or programs that require more intensive science preparation, such as psychology, engineering, or forestry.  Sometimes, these four-hour courses may be needed for certain transfer destinations, even into non-science programs.)  The three courses are SCI 135 (Introduction to Biology - Molecules & Cells), SCI 137 (Human Biology), and SCI 139 (Introduction to Biology - Plants and Animals).  All of them are two hours of lecture per week plus a three-hour laboratory.  Heres a quick look at how they differ -

TYPICAL STUDENT. SCI 135 is intended for students with no background at all - either they didn't take high school biology, did very poorly in it, or took a long time ago.  SCI 137 also works for students with no background, but there's a lot of reading, so good English skills are required.  SCI 139 assumes students have enough background so that they're familiar with very basic terms.  SCI 135 is the only one of the three that has no dissection exercises.

COURSE CONTENT.  SCI 135's content is similar to the material any modern basic biology course;  this means a lot of chemistry and a focus on tiny things that are difficult for some students to relate to.  SCI 135 is a requirement in programs where that sort of knowledge will be needed, such as Nursing.  Laboratory exercises include a lot of basic science and biology concepts.  SCI 137 is, as you would expect, focused on biology as it relates to human beings - there will be basic biology integrated, but most of the coverage will be particular to humans and the biological entities that infect them.  Labs tend to be human-biology-centered as well.  SCI 139 is, to some extent, a "retro" approach that looks at biology from a historical perspective, then investigates larger living things with a bit of an overview.  Labs mix some basics with plant- and animal-particular exercises.

MATERIALS.  SCI 135 works from a basic textbook (different instructors may use different books) and a few handouts.  SCI 137 utilizes a Family Medical Guide put out by the American Medical Association, plus a great many handouts, usually written for a general audience.  SCI 139 uses a textbook available online, plus a few handouts.  All laboratory materials are provided (there is a lab fee paid by students).

TESTING.  Both SCI 135 and SCI 139 use in-class testing on material covered in class.   There are also lab quizzes.  The idea here is to put some basic knowledge into actual memory, where it may be useful later.  SCI 137 uses take-home exams, with questions whose answers may be from the class notes, the book, lab materials, or the handouts.  This avoids anxiety some may have for in-class exams, but is more reading- and writing-intensive.  This is an attempt to train students to read medical-oriented materials for particular information, as well as comprehension, so that they are able to do this later when the need arises.  All three classes include lab exercises, each lab period, that are marked.  Questions are both procedural, pure course content-oriented, and reliant on some critical thinking.

WRITING ASSIGNMENTS.  SCI 135 assigns several relatively short writing tasks that focus on critical thinking or reading comprehension.  Both SCI 137 and SCI 139 assign short (at least 4 pages) research papers whose topics focus on aspects of either human or plant/animal biology, and involve doing background research, then organizing it and explaining in students' own words in a defined format.  All assignments are marked on content, following the format properly, and proper English usage.




Written January / February 2005, 2016, Michael McDarby.