Using Sysrev for teaching

The main takeaway we had, through our use of Sysrev, was that students learned a valuable skill. I kept seeing that word pop up in course evaluations—‘skill’—and knew that we were successfully teaching students the skill of systematic review through the platform. -

In the 2020-21 academic year, Sysrev helped teach students in the Public Health Toxicology and Environmental Health courses at The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.  At the end of the year 95% of students reported that they would recommend Sysrev to other classrooms.  

Other classes should use Sysrev to help students develop technical research skills. The Sysrev assignment provided my most intense academic growth in the Environmental Health program to date. - KS Student

Fall 2020 - Public Health Toxicology

In the Public Health Toxicology course, students were assigned to groups to evaluate drug induced liver injury in rats, cell apoptosis response to cadmium exposure, and DNA damage in lung tissue exposed to particulate matter.

In Part 1 of the assignment, students reviewed papers individually and answered topic specific questions within each paper.  In Part 2, student groups discussed papers and compared answers to generate a summary briefing of their findings.

Students reported that this portion of the course taught them a new skill.  The professor, Dr. Joseph Bressler, expressed that:

The main takeaway we had as instructors, through our use of Sysrev in class, was that students learned a valuable skill. I kept seeing that word pop up in course evaluations—‘skill’—and knew that we were successfully teaching students the skill of systematic review through the platform. - Joseph Bressler Associate Professor Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

Sysrev aided in classroom management in this project. The TAs were able to create a template project for each assignment and then clone the template for each student group. Sysrev helped TAs to manage projects and track completion.  

Spring 2021 - Environmental Health

In the Environmental Health course, 130 students were asked to perform a 'mini' systematic review with the aim to answer: "Do imported meat products elevate the risk of consumer contact with antibiotic resistant bacteria?"

Students reviewed for relevant articles from PubMed and identified referenced meats, bacteria, antibacterials, import source location, retail environment,  and the experimental methods used to evaluate antibiotic resistance.  

Relative counts of some of the bacteria and antibiotics identified in PubMed documents in a review assignment of antibiotic resistance in meat

All Students in the classroom participated in one very large project and extracted bacteria, antibacterials, etc. in a controlled fashion.  The data may allow researchers to examine interesting correlations between extracted entities.

Sysrev taught me the importance of knowing what I was looking for BEFORE starting a literature review - AF Environmental Health Student

In this project, project administrators created many labels, which correspond to questions like "which antibiotic was used?".  Students then reviewed documents and identified label answers from each document.  In this way, students were able to learn how the basic concepts, such as different types of bacteria, are researched in real world documents.  

Student Evaluation

When asked to evaluate the platform, 95% of students recommended other classes use Sysrev. Most importantly, not only did the students find the platform intuitive and easy-to-use, they recognized that the processes and skills they were learning mirror those used by career scientists.

I was completely unfamiliar with systematic reviews… working with Sysrev was a good introduction to all of that. It also taught me how to sift through large amounts of information quickly - AK
Since Sysrev optimizes the review process with machine learning, it added efficiency through its intuitive, and collaborative interface. There are thousands of articles that pop up during research, but Sysrev makes it convenient by predicting which articles are relevant, thus saving researchers countless hours. - SK
Regardless of what academic venture I’m participating in for the future, Sysrev will be a useful tool. - A. Kim

Sysrev has a place in any classroom that involves understanding publicly available documents.  While not used in this classroom, Sysrev integrations with the programming languages R and python allow students and researchers to easily do analysis on extracted data.

Instructor Evaluation

In addition to their emphasis on teaching practical skills, Professor Bressler and the courses’ TAs expressed other benefits of utilizing the Sysrev platform.

Built for collaborative research, Sysrev was well suited for the group-work aspects of the Public Health Toxicology course. With Project Cloning and Sysrev Concordance, the course organizers were able to quickly create, assign, and grade tasks for each student group. While the Environmental Health course used Sysrev for individual assignments, Sysrev Concordance still facilitated automated grading for over 130 students extraction tables.

Last but not least, Sysrev successfully facilitated the teaching of systematic review methodology during a year of remote-learning. Remote learning was a benefit that was recognized by students as well:

The platform itself was user friendly, and lent itself to increased group collaboration, especially in a virtual environment. - SZ

Engage students with meaningful research

Sysrev is used for a variety of academic purposes, by professors, researchers, students, and librarians.

The first Sysrev user webinar included medical research project presentations by Dr. Elizabeth Wayne at Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Nasir Mirza at University of Liverpool, and Dr. Channing Paller at Johns Hopkins school of Medicine (youtube).   Many of these project leaders have expressed an unintended educational benefit of incorporating students into their Sysrev projects. We encourage this practice and would gladly help guide any academic researcher who would like to explore incorporating student reviewers.

In addition to this type of supplementary educational benefit, we now have examples of Sysrev being used specifically as an educational tool. As said eloquently by Dr. Bressler, the greatest benefit of using Sysrev as an educational tool is that Sysrev IS a research tool. What better way to learn systematic review and evidence-based methodologies than by performing a literature review in a systematic fashion.

Sysrev in your classroom

Sysrev is dedicated to open-access and FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) principles. Public projects, which are discoverable by anybody on the internet (read more), are and will always be free on Sysrev.

Understandably, there are instances where educators may wish their research, assignments, or students to remain private. In these instances, we recommend individual professors and departments sign up for Premium accounts. This type of account will allow for each instructor and TA to have admin account with the ability to create projects (assignments) and manage students.

Sysrev in your university

Sysrev offers university-wide enterprise accounts that make it easy for researchers, students, or professors in a university to create projects and teams, and share their data.  Email us at to learn more about our enterprise licenses.

University Specific Benefits include:

  • University Wide Verification: Premium Accounts for every user
  • Classroom Support: training for any professor to use in the classroom
  • Librarian Support: Free training for informationists and librarians
  • Monthly Student/Faculty Training: Free monthly training seminars
  • Dedicated IT Staff: ensuring your University gets the most of Sysrev

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