Using Comic-BEE with a College Course

Interested in engaging students more deeply in your course topic?

Consider a new way to assess student understanding of course materials:
have students create branching web comics!

One Professor’s experience with Comic-BEE

Creating a branching web comic with a sequence of scenes connected by diverse pairings of choices and related outcomes demonstrates a strong understanding and mastery of a topic. Instructors seeking new and interactive ways to engage their students should consider asking individual students to write a comic rather than a term paper, or to create a comic as a class project or a lab activity as an adjunct to traditional curriculum. Students have reported that writing a comic in Comic-BEE is more enjoyable than writing a paper, and instructors say that reading the comics was faster to evaluate than a paper with citations.

Like other lab and course materials fees, individual students pay the subscription fee directly to Comic-BEE, with credit card processing from Stripe.com. The academic institution bears no financial responsibility. The fee is determined per instructor/institution on a sliding scale, generally less than 10% of the cost of a single point/credit at that institution. It is also possible for your institution pay fees directly, or use an existing grant to cover the student fees for Comic-BEE; please contact us to discuss this arrangement.

Instructors need only provide Comic-BEE with details such as the course period and maximum number of students. The Comic-BEE team will set up the course and instructor’s account and provide the instructor a registration link to give to students. Students register for the individual course using that link and pay the fee before beginning to use Comic-BEE. The only information Comic-BEE requires from students is their email address; all information collected in association with credit card transactions is managed entirely by our credit card processor.

Collaborative team projects are possible. If you would like your students to collaborate on a comic, please contact us to discuss this approach.

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