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?