THE VIRTUAL PRACTICAL TRAINER IN A UNIVERSITY COURSE ON BIOLOGY
Smirnov O. Yu., associate professor
Sumy State University, Physiology and Pathophysiology Department with Medical Biology Course
Computer training programs become a part of educational process in higher education system. Computerised simulations represent an attractive complement for training of the students and can help draw the attention of the students to the relationship between practical aspects of the science and the underlying concepts described in the textbooks. Yet medical students often have difficulty understanding the main principles of gene expression and linking mutant phenotypes to molecular defects. However, there are limitations to performing genetic experiments in a class. For example, the time of the lesson is limited and laboratory experiments in molecular genetics cannot be routinely included in basic biology course.
A self-training program has been designed to simulate main processes in molecular genetics and to stimulate students to analyse and solve some genetic problems. Much effort was devoted to identifying the images needed at each step of the scenario and writing quiz questions. Once a scenario was completely written, we then constructed the virtual practical trainer on molecular biology.
The training software explains how DNA replication, transcription and translation occur, and how to use the table of genetic code. The software uses animation that illustrate such complex process as DNA replication. It also contains a DNA sequence editor/analysis module that can be used by students for finding open reading frames and for prediction of the protein sequence. Each program user can analyse both DNA strands—find possible promoter sequence, find start and stop codons, predict the polypeptide structure (amino acid sequence), and store the specific results of his work. Students can compare effects of different point mutations on the protein structure. The quiz questions are required to progress through the scenario.
The software allows students to participate actively in learning, answer the questions and receive their first scientific results. They can use DNA sequence that is proposed by the scenario or enter they own nucleotide sequence for analysis.
One, two, or three students can register and perform their work. They can run the program in russian, ukrainian, or english. The scenario would take students 50 min to complete. Students receive marks for completing each scenario and are penalized for incorrect answers in the quizes.
The program is useful for teachers who can create new questions or change the existing ones in three languages.
The training software can serve as a good virtual teaching tool in molecular genetics.