Tag: microbiology education
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.
The approach to teaching Microbiology labs at McMurry is really an exercise in making something from nothing. This next week my BIOL 3410 students will be conducting growth curves of bacteria. That is nothing unusual for students in a course like this. However, my McMurry students have been challenged with creating their own broth media from scratch using kitchen items. The competition pits groups against one another to come up with a medium that will support the growth of microbes. We prepared on broths on Thursday, first step being to make sure their clear broths will survive autoclaving. It is always fun to see what they come up with – this semester one group found the fluid from a can of tuna fish doesn’t make a clear broth as well as an extract from boiled spinach and potato. SlimFast didn’t work so well, creating an opaque medium unsuitable for our study. Another group found a protein supplement and vitamin water made a very nice medium. Tuesday and Wednesday the games begin!
The organisms they will use are another exercise in making something from nothing, as they are the natural isolates (Staphylococci and enteric organisms) my students collected, purified, and identified earlier in the course. Each group will try their medium with six of the cocci and six enterics, following growth spectrophotometrically. Then the results will be pooled to see whose medium maximized the growth for the greatest number of bacteria. All groups will report their results in the form of research posters that will adorn our walls for the remainder of the semester. Winner gets an automatic advantage on their poster grade.
I could have given each group an organism and made their medium for them. But what would my students have learned about the chemistry and content of media by doing that? What would they have learned about the distribution of microbes in nature and the thought that goes into identifying them if I had given them cultures from our stock collection? If you can get as much “bang for your buck” making something from nothing, why not make learning fun and relevant?
There is a way of teaching that brings deeper learning, the fun of competition, and the satisfaction of accomplishment in demonstrating mastery of skills and knowledge through problem-solving. It is called discovery-based learning. We do that through research-rich teaching. McMurry’s BIMS program is committed to doing more to bring the science out of students – just putting science into students is not enough!