UniServe€Science News: Newsletter of the Science Software Clearinghouse Vol. 3, March 1996

The Osmosis Program

Susan Fyfe, Georgina Fyfe, Nick Jenkins, Rod Kevill, Rob Phillips, and Angela di Georgio

The CAUT funded project `the Osmosis Program' was developed for first year Human Biology students studying at Curtin University in the division of Health Sciences. With over 1,000 students undertaking Human Biology in their first semester, the students' background, especially in basic chemistry was very diverse. This, combined with effective but difficult practical material, resulted in many students performing poorly in the part of the unit dealing with osmotic concepts.

The program aims to allow students to master basic chemical principles needed to understand osmosis (the movement of water in and out of cells) and to generate their own data in the laboratory simulation. The Osmosis program was built using Supercardreg., incorporates a self-paced background tutorial and a laboratory simulation utilising interactive animation and colour graphics, and comprises three modules:

The Background Tutorial

- with self-testing option and feedback, provides opportunities for students to calculate the osmolarity of solutions and thus determine tonicity. Students lacking confidence in basic chemical concepts may work through a section of basic chemistry to help them master required skills. The Background Tutorial also contains a review of membrane transport and a section on graphing techniques.

The Laboratory

- provides

(i) a dialysis bag experiment where students can fill a cylinder and a dialysis bag with different solutions and predict the effect

(ii) observation of the effect of hypotonic, isotonic and hypertonic solution on a red blood cell suspension

(iii) a quantitative analysis using colorimetry of red blood cell haemolysis under conditions of differing osmolarity.

Post Lab

- where students can check the results obtained in the lab section.

The Osmosis program has been fully integrated into the first year Human Biology unit at Curtin University since 1994. Students are introduced to the computers in their second week of semester and are given three to four weeks to master the background material, mainly in their own time. Students then attend the laboratory with their regular lab group and tutor, complete the simulation module and discuss their results.

There have been some major advantages in using interactive multimedia for this laboratory work:

- Students with little background in chemistry have a comprehensive set of materials to help them master concepts and carry out calculations. This has relieved pressure on both part-time and full-time staff for help in this area. Students who are familiar with the concepts can quickly test their knowledge and may require only 30 minutes using the program. Many students without the pre-requisite chemistry spend up to six hours using the program.

- The laboratory component is carried without using consumables and extra technical help.

- Tutors have more time to help individual students and explain the results in the lab time. Discussions during the lab are more focussed and students are less distracted by complex benchtop techniques.

- Students are introduced to on-screen technology and interactive multimedia within a framework of learning and skill acquisition.

Sue Fyfe & Georgina Fyfe
ifyfes@info.curtin.edu.au, ifyfeg@info.curtin.edu.au

Susan Fyfe, Georgina Fyfe, Nick Jenkins, Rod Kevill, Rob Phillips, and Angela di Georgioare in the Human Biology Department at Curtin University of Technology

Availability There is a sampler on the Curtin Web Page at the following site http://www.curtin.edu.au/curtin/multimedia/
Requirements: Macintosh computer.