Tag: lab simulation
Recently, our family celebrated the marriage of our older son to a beautiful and talented young lady. When plans were being formed, they surprised us with one aspect of the reception that we could never have predicted – they wanted to square dance. It seems square dancing was featured at an event they attended while in college and the experience was so much fun that they wanted to make it a part of their wedding celebration. As much as we all were skeptical, they were RIGHT! We all had a great time.
I mention this because square dancing requires a few talents and skills that our BIMS program will be needing in the coming year. First, you have to be a good listener and thinker. Second, you have to be light on your feet. As the Caller directs the dancers through some tricky moves, so the BIMS program is going to have to direct its students through some tricky times.
The reason? Two of our BIMS faculty will be on sabbatical during the coming academic year. Dr. Wilson will be out during the fall semester, and Dr. Benoit will be out for the spring. They are working together on a project to develop a microbiology course for nursing majors that can be taught totally online. Wilson will create a lab that is part simulation, part field trips, part “kitchen micro”. Benoit will create over 100 20-minute lectures/activities to teach the content for the lecture portion of the course.
So in the same way that a square dancer has to be a great listener and thinker and light on their feet, the BIMS program is going to have to exhibit those skills as it adapts its course offerings and content to provide all BIMS curriculum over the two short-handed semesters. We have studied the progress of our BIMS majors and have been listening to what students want in the coming year. We have been thinking about appropriate substitutions from departments across campus. And we have started being “light on our feet” as we adapt what we will be doing during the year for our BIMS students.
May our doh-si-doh and promenade get the job done!
Students in BIOL 3410 Microbiology this semester are serving as guinea pigs for the beta-testing of the next generation of VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology software. They join scores of students from across the nation in giving a trial run to VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology Internet Edition 2012 (VUMIE 2012). The software is a product of Intuitive Systems, Inc. and has ties to McMurry faculty and alumni. VUMIE 2012 will feature for the first time Mac and Linux compatibility and will sport a new look, new features, and a new lab manual.
VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology software is a self-described “flight simulator” for the microbiology lab, engaging students in the cognitive and manipulative skills required to study bacteria. The software won one of three awards for new software products for medical education at the 2000 Slice of Life/Computers in Health Education Symposium conference in Salt Lake City. Over 60 software packages entered the competition from four continents and around 20 different countries. VUMicro was the only winner not developed at a medical school. Today, the software is in use in colleges and universities across the nation and in a few nations overseas. For more info on what it can do, visit www.virtualunknown.com.
Besides the on-campus students in Micro, there is one student whose work schedule and place of residence make regular participation in lecture and lab at McMurry impossible. She has completed her degree in chemical engineering and is taking the course in preparation for entering pharmacy school, so the pitfalls of distance learning and rigors of the course should not prove impossible to overcome. For her, the use of the software means a virtual lab experience is available on a daily basis even though she cannot regularly join in the lab activities. Practice in streaking plates and microscopy and biochemical tests will be possible on her computer so that the methods and skills others are experiencing on campus do not pass her by. She will be “soloing” from her home an hour’s drive away while others are here on campus.
We will check back in later in the semester to let you in on how this experiment is working. Is the new software everything hoped for? Is our phantom student mastering skills and knowledge from afar at a rate comparable to those on campus?
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.