1 Universidad Complutense de Madrid (SPAIN)
2 Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2021 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 7333-7341
ISBN: 978-84-09-34549-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2021.1645
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Fundamentals of Genetic Engineering and Genomics is a second-year subject in the Biology Degree at the Complutense University of Madrid. Students tend to find it dry because practical protocols are taught in theory classes. Moreover, their background in Genetics is not yet solid when they undertake the subject. Even before 2020, we recognized these problems and tried to engage students in their own learning by flipped-classroom methods and a Pandemic game in which exercises are solved in teams and are rewarded with points that students can use to investigate, control and eradicate a mysterious pathogen that is spreading around the world. Such approaches seem to have been quite successful in stimulating students, who, due in part to the coincidental outbreak of the real-world pandemic, have come to appreciate the usefulness of Genetic Engineering in dealing with real public health challenges.

However, some limitations have been identified as well. First, the extra workload associated to the game exercises discourages some students. Also, while the game promotes team work, not all members of each group contribute equally, and some find that the game is not rich enough for all of them to participate at the same time. To exacerbate matters, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced laboratory practice to be partly delivered via on-line sessions, which also implies that laboratory groups need to be split to comply with health measures, and additional teachers need to be recruited that might not have much experience in this subject.

To improve the students' experience and to help new teachers get a grip on the subject's organization, we have started to develop mentorship networks, involving both students, teachers and laboratory assistants. In these networks, former students guide new ones in solving exercises, while experienced teachers provide advice to newcomers. It seems that both students and teachers value the know-how of their peers, but communication channels, as well as introductory materials and protocols, must be improved. Here we report on a new content manager that we are developing, which will be an integral part of the webpage where the Pandemic game application resides. The webpage already contains videos, posters and other materials about, among other things, laboratory techniques, but they have to be added manually to the server. The content manager will facilitate that all members of the Learning Community can contribute and share new materials. It is also designed to make the Pandemic game more interactive, for example by introducing simpler inline questions, similar to Kahoot, that individual members of each team will have to answer to get extra points. We expect that this feature will make the game more attractive and engaging to all. We also describe how students, both undergraduates and at master's level, participate not only in their already mentioned mentoring capacity, but also in programming and content creation tasks. The goal is to interlink the Biology Degree with other related ones, such as the Biochemistry Degree and a Biotechnology Master's Degree.
Biochemistry, genetic engineering, learning community, gamification, interactivity, mentorship network.