Thursday, June 27, 2013

Using Online Tools for Teaching Bioinformatics

I attended one of science cafe meetings of BiGCaT group today and we discussed use of online tools for teaching bioinformatics.

Andra Waagmeester (PhD student form BiGCaT) introduced Rosalind Project as a teaching tool. This project mainly focuses on bioinformatics solutions. Various questions about bioinformatics are asked on the website. Actually, those are various problems that can be seen in any bioinformatics research and by solving them, it helps you learn bioinformatics.

On the website, it is possible to start a class (with a faculty member account) and generate a curriculum with the desired content from the project. It is also possible to post new problems. There is also discussion part where one can ask questions about problems and look for help. The replies to those can be up or downvoted so it can generally be useful.

On Rosalind, problems can be solved using any programming language but they said it's optimized to Python, so Python should be better choice. Among problems, one set is about learning Python, which is good. There are also two sets Bioinformatics Stronghold and Bioinformatics Armory where you build up bioinformatics knowledge.

There is also Code Academy where both learning and teaching programming & coding are possible. It doesn't focus on bioinformatics specifically but it might be used to teach bioinformatics so it's worth checking out.

The use of online tools as a studying platform in classes is really novel and I think it should be done by including this study to grading (which might raise the interest of students to the study). However, there are also some issues about it, which are discussed in the meeting. One is the stability and availability of the tools for whole course time. Second is the availability of solutions on web such as on GitHub. There can be these problems of using these tools for teaching.

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