Using Comic-BEE with a College Course

Go beyond writing a paper — and engage your students!

Assess student understanding in a new way:
have them create a branching, interactive web comic with Comic-BEE.

Case Study: A Computer Science Professor’s experience with Comic-BEE

Demonstrate Mastery

Students usually have a few goals when they write a paper: hit the length requirement, cite the required number of sources, and get a decent grade. Notably absent from that list is “demonstrate mastery of this topic.” Papers test Googling skills more than anything else. While papers will always have their place in academia, consider a different assessment approach: web comics with branching narratives.

Consider Bloom’s Taxonomy of Knowledge: creating something new requires higher-order thinking skills. Constructing narratives with different paths and outcomes requires a thorough understanding of a particular topic. Students must understand more than the facts—they must understand the implications.

Branching narratives demonstrate what the creator understands about the kind of choices available and the consequences for each of those decisions. Students can’t simply parrot facts—they have to prove that they know what comes next.

No Direct Costs, Easy Setup

Colleges and universities bear no financial responsibility to add Comic-BEE into any curriculum. Students pay a small “materials fee” directly to Comic-BEE. The fee is far less than the price for most textbooks, and is typically 5%-10% of the cost of a single credit or unit at your institution.

Even better, there is no software to download—Comic-BEE works with any HTML5+ browser without any add-ons. It’s simple and fast to set up: you request a course account, we set it up and give you the individual course signup link to send to your students.

Comic-BEE does not require any advance information about your students. We never see any credit card details; data is collected directly by Stripe, our payment provider. The only personal information in Comic-BEE is the email address they use when setting up their account.

So what are you waiting for?
Contact us today to get started with Comic-BEE in your course!

Assess and Grade Faster

Professors spend hours grading papers each semester, and the time adds up quickly. By spending an average of just five minutes to grade one paper, it takes a full ten hours to grade all the papers from 120 students. With longer or more complex papers, this process can get quickly out of hand.

Comic-BEE comics are simpler and faster to assess and grade. Students can send a link to their completed comic, and professors explore the visual narrative. For a typical course assignment comic, this takes about one to three minutes – about how long it would take you to read a few comic panels. This means you can grade Comic-BEE comics twice as quickly as traditional papers.

For deeper dives, students can provide a lesson plan (built into the comic and also accessible in your browser) for professors to read and assess how well the story and choices aligned with the lesson plan.

Engage Your Students

Feedback from students who have used Comic-BEE suggests they are deeply engaged with the material. Rather than researching a topic and producing the requisite number of words, they become immersed in a narrative that they create – because comics are fun to create.

Consider this feedback from college students who used Comic-BEE in a course assignment:

“The art/graphics options made it easy to put together a comic that looked pretty nice, and I like the idea of a branching comic in general (I hadn’t been exposed to that previously).”

“It is my first time using Comic BEE and I was proud if my final project.”

“Creative hands on learning is my preference. Comic-BEE was just that.”

Comics are visual, and many students today prefer visual assignments to written ones. They’re creating a story, not writing a paper. Finally, creating branching stories on a selected topic requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The software is easy to use. Did we mention that a rich library of professionally created art assets is built into Comic-BEE? That’s right—your students don’t have to draw a single thing.

Prevent Academic Dishonesty

Plagiarism is a disturbingly common trend, and it’s never been easier than it is today. In fact, the number of students paying strangers over the internet to do their assignments is growing at an astonishing rate—recent research by the Australian government indicated that 15% of students admit to purchasing papers or contracting out coursework.

Resources like Turnitin have made plagiarism detection much simpler, but holistic teaching methods indicate that detection isn’t enough. If writing papers is such a daunting task that students are willing to cheat, it’s time to try something different.

Traditional paper assignments assess Factual knowledge more than any other. Factual knowledge is the simplest (and therefore most tempting) to plagiarize: it’s an easy copy and paste.

On the other hand, creating branching narratives requires Factual, Conceptual, and Procedural knowledge. It is extremely difficult (and therefore less tempting) to plagiarize Procedural or Conceptual knowledge—in fact, it’s easier to learn it yourself than it is to copy from someone else.

What are you waiting for?

Request your course account today!

I teach an IT ethics course at Stony Brook University for the Department of Computer Science twice a year. When researching how ethics is taught at the university level, I discovered role playing invites students to imagine how different actors might think about and react to varying scenarios. I was intrigued by the prospect of having an activity where students have to imagine the perspectives of others when confronted with an ethical dilemma. Furthermore, I was eager to have an activity where students could visualize the outcomes of a sequence of choices, much like a decision tree.

Comic-BEE was just the application I was looking for. For the midterm my students research an ethical dilemma,  identify stakeholders, policy options, and trade-offs; and prepare a report. Based on their research, they develop a lesson plan in Comic-BEE as an addendum to the research report. The Comic-BEE lesson plan forms the basis for a branching story comic the students develop in teams of two. Typically one student assumes the role of writer, and the other the role of designer/artist.

It is gratifying to see how user-friendly the application is and how each step in the process seamlessly integrated with subsequent steps. From the lesson plan to the script, from the storyboard to the final comic/branching story, both reflection and interactive storytelling was facilitated. My engineering students are not artists any more than they are actors, but they really enjoyed the assets and design tools in Comic-BEE. In student course evaluations, the Comic-BEE assignment was regularly cited as the most enjoyable and rewarding. The software proved to be reliable and error-free across multiple platforms, which has allowed us to create a showcase of student work we can leverage in future semesters.

The use of comics to affect social change is well documented. Thanks to Comic-BEE my ethics students are able to explore this powerful narrative medium as they engage with the many sides of ethical dilemmas.

See Tony’s bio
TONY SCARLATOS, Director, Multimedia Lab | Lecturer, Computer Science