UniServe Science News Volume 11 November 1998

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A Web-deliverable Computer Learning Module on Gene Transcription

Charlotte Brack and Barrie Davidson
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Melbourne

We have constructed an interactive computer learning module to facilitate an understanding of the mechanism of gene transcription. The module is self-directed and designed to accompany lectures in our second year science classes. The primary delivery of information is visual with extensive use of animation. Text is used for brief explanations and questions but the main learning strategy is for students to learn by experience and to interpret the mechanism visually. The experience of the learner is maximised by a requirement for interactive decision making. We considered that 'drag-and-drop' was the most appropriate interactive form for learning a molecular mechanism. This has been used in combination with multiple choice and free-form questions and enhanced by extensive use of feedback. The focus of this strategy is on areas of common misunderstanding by students. Students must make decisions about which component to move, where to move it, and how it interacts with other components. Incorrect decisions take students on a path of further tasks and questions to explore the implications of their decisions and to steer them back to the main path of the module. A prokaryote model has been used and content has been divided into the following sections: DNA structure, transcription initiation, elongation, and termination. An animation of the overall process will be available to students only on completion of the interactive part of the module. Versions of the module for Mac, PC and via a web browser will be available. Preliminary evaluation of the module with a small group of second year students indicates that this module has successfully redressed a number of common misunderstandings in gene transcription. The students liked the visual style and the interactivity of the module. We are now extending the module to cover further misunderstandings by students revealed during the evaluation sessions. The evaluation is ongoing and is done in collaboration with the Biomedical Multimedia Unit in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

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UniServe Science News Volume 11 November 1998

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