Rutgers graduate students create online resource for biology students
Introductory science classes can be difficult, especially a course like general biology. But a Rutgers graduate student has created a free online website to assist those struggling with General Biology I and II.
Haider Ali Bhatti created BIALIGY last year. Inspired by Salman Khan of Khan Academy, Bhatti, the lead biology instructor for the ODASIS program, came up with the idea of creating this website during his junior year at Rutgers.
“BIALIGY was made to help and has helped and will continue to help students pursuing life sciences … all for free, all the time,” Bhatti said, who believes that courses like General Biology should not demotivate students from pursuing life sciences.
Bhatti said he faced some resistance from the Department of Biology at Rutgers when the site was first launched.
“Students began using the site at a really high rate and began asking their professors if it was okay to use,” he said. “I was actually told to take down the site.”
Bhatti spoke with the Director of Life Sciences to keep BIALIGY running, and it is now a successful site.
Many Rutgers students vouch for the effectiveness of using BIALIGY as great tool to aid in their education.
Nathalie Adam and Alexandra Gomez, both School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomores, used BIALIGY for General Biology I and II.
“Ali was phenomenal in explaining key concepts that students needed to know in order to succeed in General Biology,” said Adam.
Gomez said she counted on BIALIGY to clear up questions she had from lectures, and was able to use the site to more thoroughly learn and understand every concept, calling it her "lifesaver."
BIALIGY is specifically divided to teach Biology 115 and Biology 116. Both the courses have 28 lectures and Bhatti records around 10-15 videos for each lecture that last up to 12 minutes each.
Bhatti uses concept maps and flowcharts to teach biology, which he says is well-liked by students who use the website.
“The idea for the student is simple — just write and follow along with the video and my narration and eventually, you will end up with 10 to 15 concise and well-organized pages of flowcharts,” Bhatti said.
Gomez said the flipcharts were very organized and detail-oriented, and she appreciated the website being in accordance with lecture notes, as well as providing figures to look at.
Another feature BIALIGY uses is YouTube playlists for each lecture.
“These playlists include videos from channels that I personally used as a freshman and also those that I have shown students during my TA sessions,” Bhatti said.
Gomez found the playlists to be very useful in her education. “If I had any questions or concerns, I looked at the videos on the playlist to clear up my questions,” Gomez said.
BIALIGY is very popular among students because it is very different than the style of teaching implemented in classes, Bhatti said.
“The problem with the traditional biology lecture interface is the pace of instruction,” Bhatti said. “Due to the time restriction of 80 minutes, professors have to breeze through topics while students are still trying to catch up.”
Gomez said although professors claimed making flowcharts, tables and hierarchies would help with memory formation, it didn't help her very much. BIALIGY taught and explained everything to her so she did not have to teach herself the material.
BIALIGY is very popular among students pursuing life sciences.
“I’ve heard from students all over Rutgers and even at other colleges who have used Ali’s website for their biology class,” Adam said.
Gomez believes that Bhatti is the "Biology God," adding: “BIALIGY is one of the greatest resources there is for biology and is taught by one of the smartest people I’ve ever met," she said. "I wish Ali would make a learning website for every single science subject at Rutgers.”
Bhatti's ultimate goal is to complete a Ph.D in a biological field and teach biology.
“College should be the time you receive the absolute best education of your life, especially since you yourself choose what you want to study for the first time in your educational career," Bhatti said.
Ria is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in genetics and minoring in psychology. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. You can find her on Twitter @riarungta.