UniServe Science News Volume 13 July 1999

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Fatal Bacteria and Their Toxins Studied in Virtual Safety at Leeds University

submitted by Kevin Meehan, Qmark Systems

The Microbiology Department at the University of Leeds has turned to computer based sessions to enable its students to study fatal bacterial diseases such as typhoid and botulism, where laboratory exercises are deemed to be too dangerous to run.

These 'virtual' laboratory sessions are enabling students to look at case study material that includes comprehensive bacteriological data. In one, an imaginary eight year old girl is unwell having arrived back in the UK after visiting Australia. Sometime later, she is booked into hospital and diagnosed as suffering from typhoid. The students are then asked to play the role of virtual detective by studying appropriate data to discover where the virus was first contracted. Likewise, students also discover how to prepare a novel canned food in order to prevent the risk of botulism.

The new study methods have been made possible through the testing and assessment software program, Question Mark. The program enables complex multimedia tests to be constructed without recourse to individual programming skills. The software is also able to assess the results of completed tests, saving valuable teaching resource time.

The Microbiology Department has also created a series of web pages giving access to a full set of notes designed to support the lecture material associated with the Laboratory and Scientific Medicine Course. Case-based tutorials can be found in the local Microbiology Departmental Software Library available on the University Computing Service desktop. It is hoped that these tutorials will be transferred to the web, again using Question Mark software. This will give the students the opportunity for true distance learning.

The software can also be used to analyse responses and determine what parts of the curriculum have been most readily absorbed by the students and which have been misunderstood. The teaching can then be tailored based on these results.

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UniServe Science News Volume 13 July 1999

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