COMING SOON from Learning Science: Bioscience interactive resources

Our summer innovations here at LearnSciHQ are well underway and we’ve got a wide range of bioscience and chemistry resources to reveal, for a planned autumn 2019 release. We’ll give you a sneak peek of the new expansion to our bioscience resource library in this post. We’re also working on new chemistry resources, and we’ll be covering these next time.

Please note: the images here represent pre-release builds and may be subject to change. 

New bioscience resources

As always, we want to ensure Learning Science resources are valued by staff and students. As part of this we select new topics based on requests by our partners. Over the past year our most requested fields were genetics, safety, physiology and pharmacology. We are delivering multiple resources in each of these categories, as well as filling a few specific gaps in other fields.

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Physiology

Physiology is a biomedical discipline we are breaking into this year with two interactive resources. 

One resource covers electrocardiography (ECG) and the electrical activity of the heart. As with many resources, this features our interactive animation player in which students can experience and revisit animated clips, information points, and questions as many times as needed in order to develop a solid understanding of the topic.

In later pages, students actively position leads on a virtual patient, identify the electrodes involved in the standard limb leads, and develop an understanding of why traces from different leads have a different waveform. 

We’re also working on an interactive resource on action potentials, taking students on a deep dive into the cellular and molecular basis behind this core physiological phenomenon. 

Do you work in physiology and have further ideas of resources you’d like to see? Let us know!

Pharmacology

We’ve also had great interest in pharmacology. We are starting our series with a pair of resources on organ baths, developed with input from academics at the University of Surrey and the University of Hertfordshire.

Each resource introduces students to the equipment and then simulates the response of aorta or ileum to a selection of drugs. Students can test the reaction of the tissue to increasing concentrations of several drugs, and then consider how to interpret the results in relation to the underlying pharmacology. These could be used as an effective prelab tool, or even take the place of a wet lab, thereby avoiding the need to use animal tissue.

We are proud that our resources are designed to enhance, not replace real teaching labs. However, there are instances where virtual labs may be beneficial, such as where wet labs are not readily available for use by large numbers, or if ethical considerations make it undesirable.

In cases like this, our new organ bath resources demonstrate how technology can offer students a stimulating experience they may not otherwise be able to access.  

Our pharmacology offering this year will also include three Smart Worksheets, our unique, feedback-rich learning and assessment system. These worksheets are based around the organ bath resources described above and allow students to delve deeper into the data analysis and interpretation. There are opportunities to practise drug dose calculations, make appropriate graphical plots (including troubleshooting commonly made errors) and interpret the data collected during an organ bath experiment.  

Genetics

Genetics is a huge, exciting and rapidly changing area of research. Understanding the fundamentals is critical for students who go on to work in a wide range of disciplines.

Our initial focal points for this compelling project are the fundamentals of next-generation sequencing (NGS) and DNA quantification. In NGS, users work through the stages of this impressive new technology, which can sequence DNA faster and more accurately than ever before. The DNA quantification resources explore the use of spectrophotometry vs. fluorometry-based methods, as well as detecting protein and salt impurities.

We are designing these in collaboration with academics from the University of Oxford. We are grateful for their input throughout design and development and look forward to sharing the finished resource soon.

Also in the pipeline for release this winter are resources on the detection of SNPs using CAPS markers and calculation of recombination frequencies. Finally, although we have already touched on restriction enzymes in our cloning resources, in 2020 we hope to develop a full resource on restriction digests, delving deeper into the theory and practical applications of this ubiquitous technique.

Primer design

Continuing with the DNA theme, we’re supplementing our popular PCR series to meet requests for a more advanced resource on this topic, and will focus on primer design. The resource will help students address the common issues scientists face when designing primers, including primer orientation, inclusion of restriction sites and primer length.

In the meantime, we have a suite of PCR resources available now which cover practical use and underpinning theory of end-point PCR and quantitative PCR. If this sounds of interest, get in touch and we’ll be happy to give you a demonstration.

Cell culture

Scaling up to whole cells, we’ve got a resource on cell counting using a haemocytometer in the pipeline. In this resource, students will practise preparing and loading cell samples into a haemocytometer, making cell counts, and performing calculations to determine cell density and viability. 

This is the beginning of a series of resources on culturing cells. If your students work with cells in the lab, we would be happy to hear any ideas for areas you’d like us to consider for next year’s development.

Analytical techniques 

The practical applications of analytical techniques are important and far-reaching, as they allow us to understand the nature and composition of a wide variety of substances. However, students can find the underpinning theory challengingly abstract, and difficult to connect to the experimental kit and outputs.  

We are developing new resources starting with the fundamentals of NMR and mass spectrometry. These new resources will cover all the fundamental aspects in the active, engaging Learning Science style.  

Safety

No matter what topic your students are studying in the lab, safety is paramount. We are introducing two new resources which will ensure they can get the most out of their lab experience whilst remaining safe.

One of these involves getting your students used to the idea of dressing safely for the lab, learning which items of clothing are safe and which pose a safety risk, and why. In the second resource students explore a lab environment, answering questions at different points, and familiarising themselves with the key safety features and risks. 

We appreciate safety protocols can vary a lot between labs so just let us know if you'd like these resources customised or more specific ones built for your institution.

Calculation practice

Our Smart Worksheets can be used for a variety of purposes, including lab reports, dynamic tutorials and calculation practice. When used to support numeracy skills, they offer a low-stakes environment for students to practise and receive immediate feedback as many times as they like. 

The calculation practice library already includes topics such as making dilutions, pH, spectrophotometry and enzyme kinetics. These, along with new additions described below, will support a range of study levels, from those catching up with the foundations to those wanting to practice more advanced, specialised topics.

Our academic partners from a wide range of disciplines tell us that working with units is a frequent source of error amongst their students. This new Smart Worksheet, called “unit conversions - metric prefixes”, takes students right back to the fundamentals and builds up understanding from scratch, with practise opportunities provided throughout. 

Other Smart Worksheets will be more specialised, supporting students with the quantitative aspects of organ baths and kinetic profiles.

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We’re looking forward to continuing the design and development of these resources over the summer, and then planning ahead for the future. If these, or any other bioscience resources look relevant to your teaching, contact us to arrange a demonstration or request a free trial. 

If you’re interested in chemistry resources too, stay tuned for our upcoming post which will be covering expansions to our longstanding chemistry resource library.