"Overall I think that this online textbook for "Life on this Rock" has vastly improved the presentation for the print materials. In my opinion it will make the learning Life Science I and II more interactive, more interesting and more engaging to students."

Umass Lowell Department of Biology Professor

Umass Lowell Department of Biology


Umass Lowell's Department of Biology offers biology courses for non-biology majors, taken by approximately 2,000 students every year, in addition to courses intended mainly for life sciences majors.


Challenges in teaching the introductory biology courses for non-majors include:
  1. Biology textbooks geared toward life science majors are not ideal for non-majors, who are more interested in understanding core concepts and have less interest in having to memorize obscure terms.
  2. Some of the most interesting topics in biology are rapidly evolving, and traditional textbooks and ebooks become out-dated quickly
  3. Traditional and ebooks lack engaging rich media and ability to easily link to external content, which is particularly important for capturing the interest of non-biology majors
  4. Making sure all students get ancillary materials from professors is a major challenge, particularly in large classes
  5. Logistics of administrating quizzes, distributing/submitting assignments, getting timely feedback from students and keeping track of grades in large classes is daunting


Adopted "Life on this Rock" textbook (by Thomas Shea) delivered on the Trunity eLearning platform:

  1. Each class provided a customizable "Trubook" instance of the Life on this Rock textbook
  2. Professors upload their own teaching materials to the Trubook instance for their class
  3. Students purchase access to their Trubook (with all their course materials) via the online store
  4. Students access their Trubook via any browser or offline via Trunity Mobile App
  5. Quizzes and assignments added directly inside each Trubook
  6. Integrated gradebook used to track student results
  7. Professors can add to/update their Trubook anytime while students are taking the course


"The book is well illustrated with easy to understand pictures, charts, and graphs. The presentation of the various topics is in language that is not confusing to non-science majors. References are made to everyday experiences that “connect” the students to their experiences outside science but have relevance to their lives." ~ Ezequiel R. Rivera Professor, Biological Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell The accessibility features "are important for students who often find reason or fault with on line books and use that as an excuse for their inability to study the material. " ~ Umass Lowell Professor "Dr. Shea has included more graphics to update the online version and illustrate concepts. Being online also means students can see all graphics in full color and there is no worry that adding more graphics will increase cost to students. Moreover, Dr. Shea will able to update these online materials in a much shorter time frame compared to print version. Another nice feature of the online textbook is modifications to the review questions at the end of each chapter section. Dr. Shea has included answer options for students to select for each review question. These review questions can be modified or more question can be added by Dr. Shea in a short time compare to revisions of a print textbook.Dr. Shea has included a glossary of biological terms with their definitions at the end of each chapter section. This is not found in the textbook version. It is useful to students because they do not see the definitions until they click on the biological term in the glossary. This means students can quiz themselves on word definitions when studying.The last feature of this online book that is not found in the print version are the supplementary materials sections where Dr. Shea provides hyper links to websites relevant to the course material. There is even a link for selected videos of more complex topics. " ~ Johanna Choo, Lecturer, Biological Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell "It's well organized and I like that you can click on bold words for instant definitions, it's very convenient. Nice work!" ~ Umass Lowell Student "This is way more succinct and user friendly then the [physical] book, the glossary and comprehension questions at the end will help people retain terms and concepts." ~ Umass Lowell Student


Deployed to 2,000 students at Umass Lowell during 2015/16 school year

Significantly reduced cost to student

Significantly improved student engagement and learning

Reduced professor workload due to integrated instructor tools

Success Team