Tag: allied health
The end of the fall semester signals the completion of Dr. Wilson’s sabbatical and the beginning of the sabbatical for Dr. Benoit. The two are working on a project to create an online microbiology course for allied health students. Neither would say online micro is the way to go for training a new generation of microbiologists, but creating microbe awareness for those in allied health fields is possible using their unique approach. And, the realization that a growing list of schools have mandated these courses be taught online (including an online lab) has led them to face the challenge of making sure such classes are done right. So, the goal is better tools for online microbiology labs and lectures, resources that will maximize learning from a less than optimal approach.
Dr. Wilson’s summer and fall semester have been devoted to creating an online lab. The approach used is one of simulation, kitchen microbiology, and “scavenger hunts”-online searches and trips to local stores. He has only completed about 75% of the work to date, mainly because his students in his regular microbiology class this spring will help to provide a student’s perspective on “what works” in keeping the activities interesting, informative, and fun. There will be liberal use of videos in the final product, and students will help with their production. The goal is to have a finished, polished product by the end of the spring semester – in time for use in the BIOL 3403 microbiology course to be taught this summer.
Dr. Benoit will spend the spring developing the lecture component of the course. There will be scores of short, focused lectures on key topics to allied health microbiology. Using a cafeteria approach, an instructor can choose which of these to include to create a tailored course fitting a school’s unique needs. Benoit plans to use the materials in a test run this summer with BIOL 3403 and have a polished product ready for Fall 2013.
The project is being done with the cooperation and resources of Intuitive Systems, Inc., developer of the simulation software to be used in the lab. Students will purchase access to the web resources and complete many of their assignments online. It is expected that access to the lab and lecture together will run less than the cost of a textbook or lab manual. Quizzes and activities will be auto-graded on the website and the results sent to student and instructor. For a sneak peek at the early stages of website development, click here.
This fall at universities around the world, some students will engage in a two-pronged approach to learning the knowledge and skills of microbiology lab technique. They will learn the conventional way, loop and burner and tubes and plates, and they will expand their opportunity to think like a microbiologist and simulate their lab work using their computers with software developed by Dr. Gary Wilson and his partners at Intuitive Systems, Inc. The software, VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology, is now over a decade old, and this summer marks the end of a two year-long development program to create a new, more versatile version. Dr. Wilson’s son, Marcus Wilson, has been the Java-developer making it all happen.
The original VU Microbiology was developed with particular goals in mind: solid microbiology instruction, true-to-life simulation requiring knowledge of aseptic technique, opportunities for students to make mistakes with consequences, detailed reporting in the Virtual Lab Report of all errors in technique and judgment – all in a game-like atmosphere. Judging by the popularity of the software with allied health programs, it scores on all points. But the leaps in technology over the past ten years have necessitated parallel improvements in the software. Whereas the original product was PC-exclusively and largely stand-alone, the new version will be “platform neutral” and Web-based. Testing on Mac, Linux, and Windows have all gone well, meaning any student with any computer will soon have equal access to this tool. VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology Web Edition (VUWEB) will be “Micro Anywhere!” incarnate.
To make that happen, Dr. Wilson has spent the summer taking care of the content and support components, while Marcus has been polishing the look, feel, and action of the software. Several tests were replaced with updated versions. New Help files had to be created that accounted for the current state of computer skills in average students, rather than on the average computer skills of 1998. A new lab activities manual was written, entitled Micro Digital Media(TM), along with an instructor’s key. MDM gets right to the nuts and bolts of microbiology and spends its 100 pages helping students learn how lab skills are used in a health setting. There is even an exercise to help students learn how to make fancy research posters to display their work.
What’s left? The Help files are text- and graphic-centered, but will also have extensive videos still in production. And there’s extensive beta testing to come. Anticipated product release will be Spring 2012.
By popular demand, BIMS is adding a microbiology course for non-majors. In actuality, this is not a new course at all, but one that was taught for several years and then dropped because of staffing issues – there was nobody available to teach the course. Now, with Dr. Wilson returning to full-time teaching after years as the Natural & Computational Sciences dean, that problem is a thing of the past. BIOL 3403 Foundations of Microbiology returns to the catalog and will be taught in spring semesters and during summers.
BIOL 3403 is geared toward health professions where an understanding of basic microbiology and its impact on health is essential. Its counterpart for BIMS majors – BIOL 3410 – provides a greater exposure to the biology and physiology and genetics of microbes. Mineral cycling and the biology of the Archaebacteria (methane production, growth at extremes of temperature and salinity) and Cyanobacteria (photosynthesis) are clearly important to a biology major – not nearly so to someone who is pursuing an allied health career. BIOL 3403 is likely to have a greater emphasis on microbes posing health risks and how they can be avoided or destroyed in a healthcare setting. Antibiotics, immunity, and safe water and food are more likely to dominate discussions on a regular basis. By providing direction and focus to the two courses, the non-majors course can be effectively taught without the extensive pre-requisites in previous biology and chemistry courses expected for the majors course. The BIMS program sees the two courses as a welcomed response to the needs of two very different populations of students and allows the instructors to tailor their courses to the needs and interests of each. At this time, it looks like Dr. Wilson will teach BIOL 3410 and Dr. Benoit will teach the new course, BIOL 3403.
Just another example of the responsiveness of BIMS to the needs of students!