Interactive Biochemistry - MetabolismLouise Brown
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Western Sydney Macarthur
The CD-ROM, Interactive Biochemistry - Metabolism, has been developed by staff of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University. The package is directed at students studying in that department, but has also been designed with a view to the South East Asian market. The format comprises a series of tutorial exercises on the following topics: Role of Water in Biology; Metabolic Release of Energy; Biosynthesis of Carbohydrates and Lipids; Amino Acid Metabolism; and Integration and Regulation of Metabolism. Each tutorial contains a mixture of static text screens, interactive screens, and animated diagrams such as those in the Electron Transport topic within the Metabolic Release of Energy tutorial. Here there are excellent representations of the movement of electrons between the redox carriers, the movement of protons from the mitochondrial matrix to the inter-membrane space, and the synthesis of ATP occurring as the protons move back to the matrix via the F0F1 - ATPase. Cell-signalling mechanisms, covered in the Integration and Regulation of Metabolism tutorial, are also depicted using excellent animations.
In addition to the tutorial topics, there are two exercise sections. The first, The Great Metabolic Race, tests the students' understanding of the catabolism of carbohydrates and lipids. The second, The After Race Banquet, deals with the synthesis of carbohydrates and lipids.
Students are tested in a number of ways: answer true/false questions; 'drag and pull' answers to the correct boxes, click on the correct answer and type in the answer. Points are awarded in these exercises. There is also a separate selection of multiple choice questions from past exam papers. No points are awarded for performance in these questions, but the student is advised whether or not his/her answer was correct.
Several of my students have 'reviewed' the CD-ROM for me. Without exception they enjoyed using the program, found that it was easy to use, and said that they would like to have access to the program at university. They all saw it as supplementing their lectures, rather than replacing lecture material.
The content in the topics is comprehensive, and some universities may not cover all the material available on the CD-ROM in their lectures. However, my students readily identified what was applicable to their course. There is reference to a set of notes that accompany the computer program, but I did not receive these with the CD-ROM.
The CD-ROM is available as a single purchase or as a site licence. The cost seems acceptable to the market as students indicated they would be prepared to purchase the package. Technical requirements are Windows 3.1, SVGA 800x600, 256 colours. A potential problem with running the program is with machines having SCSI CDs. I am told that most modern CDs have IDE drives, so this is not likely to be a major problem. However, one of two computers in our library has a SCSI CD, and would not accept the program. The CD-ROM is currently available from the developers.
I believe the package to be an excellent aid to studying Metabolism. It gives a visual dimension to what can be difficult conceptual ideas. For example, it leads students through metabolic pathways step by step, showing the changes happening in a dynamic way. I believe students would benefit from having access to the program. In fact, I liked it so much I have ordered it for myself!
UniServe Science News Volume 12 March 1999
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