Curtin University of Technology
Many issues in teaching biochemistry are common in different courses. In this case teaching energy metabolism, nursing, medicine and science have similar needs in terms of visualisation and a need for students to be interactive. A tutorial is being developed to introduce metabolic energy. Using the Mentor author system based on a HyperCard environment, it is easy to adapt the material to different courses in different institutions. Students and staff can gain greater control of their lime and the value of communication is increased with utilisation of interactive multimedia. Support in terms of hardware for students, supportive management and technical backup allow successful introduction of interactive multimedia.
Material at a level above or below the ability of the student will alternatively lose or bore the student. If it is deficient in important areas or if the emphasis is different to that of the course, supplementary course notes have to be prepared and perused. The alternative of authoring is a daunting prospect both in terms of financial resources and the time and energy required from the author. And then the product may only be suitable for that one class.
Flexibility and adaptability are obviously desirable qualities for educational programs. Authoring becomes a more attractive prospect if the product can be used for many classes; and even more so if the program can be modified readily to meet different needs. Time management for teachers and students needs greater consideration (Slack-Smith, 1992). Development time for multimedia demands that the product is useful for several years and students are often not willing to invest a deal of time learning a difficult program.
Computer assisted instruction is not new, but the technology is improving and our understanding of educational design is improving. Apostolides (1987) suggests that although a deal of time is required to develop computer lessons, it can reduce the time to master academic objectives. He suggests a decrease in cost of delivery and a major role of computer lessons in providing excellent education.
Joint authoring across campuses obviously expands the potential use, increases creative scrutiny and reduces the individual author's input load. And there are other advantages. There is a great value in sharing ideas and working across campus, if only to break the mindset that may occur within one environment. One positive outcome is the development of a program which can be used in more than one unit, even more than one institution. However many other aspects of the interactive process are valuable; it is useful to experience another form of administration and different departments to learn and to give. Networks broaden and resources can be shared.
In preparing a shared tutorial for various classes across two campuses, it was important to achieve a high degree of flexibility and adaptability to allow selection and deletion of certain sections to suit the needs of particular classes. Easy adaptability by the authors and users to changing future needs was equally important. The Mentor program developed at the University of Western Australia offered was readily available and appeared to meet the adaptability and flexibility criteria. The reasons for using computer media were to:
Biochemistry is a central subject for pure and applied biological sciences. With the growth of molecular biology and genetic engineering, the field of knowledge has expanded enormously. But more importantly, biochemistry has become more important to fields such as Medicine, Nursing, Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation, Forensic Science and Biotechnology. The advent of the long-life tomato, DNA fingerprinting in paternity disputes, human hormone "factories" in bacterial cells and superior kits for medical diagnosis will have a big impact on society but they have also produced an information overload for those teaching biochemistry. Improved efficiency in teaching and learning is essential. The area is not an easy one for students. It is the meeting place for the biological and physical sciences. Students need some ability in areas such as physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics before they can understand biochemical concepts.
Thus, biochemistry is often a difficult subject for students to grasp. Traditional lectures may not always be applicable in our changing tertiary environment and are difficult to pace correctly in classes of mixed levels of competency. With the change in biochemistry laboratories to a much more automated style, it is not surprising that students in the field are likely to respond well to a computerised learning environment.
The aim of this software program was to introduce students to energy metabolism, providing a simple introduction but with more detail available for more advanced students. The tutorial program provides an overview of energy metabolism in heterotrophic organisms including man. This topic is part of most courses in Biological Science and is a problem area for both students and educators. It is an area that requires the student to maintain an overall view of body function and its individual systems while considering reaction pathways for individual molecules. A number of concepts essential to clear understanding are not easy. Essentially, the processes being developed are dynamic but in lectures and in texts are presented in static form. Interactive computer based tutorials would allow a dynamic, animated presentation of the material. The tutorial allows students to cover material at a pace suited to individual needs and to more easily grasp the complexities of the area.
Early stages of design involved writing the plan of the program. This was amended and expanded many times to be as complete as possible before programming began. One difficulty with the material was the abstract nature of some concepts, potential and kinetic energy forexample.
After completing this program, the student should be able to:
Figure 2: Students are introduced to the sections of the program by simple
menu screens where clicking on descriptive text takes them to that section.
A concern in deciding on the imagery for the material was the vastly different range in sizes from the individual molecules to the whole human body (and in fact to the inclusion of energy supply for the whole earth). The tutorial content included rather abstract concepts such as different types of energy.
These needed to be presented visually in a manner that retained scientific validity while providing a useful image to guide the understanding of the user. Chemical structures for the molecules used in energy metabolism were included to identify the sources of energy and the way in which changes in molecules provided energy for living tissues. Location of different processes in the various tissues were presented in the frame of a human body picture. Integration of the whole picture from molecular source to body use of energy was important and this was provided as a non pictorial summary chart. Thus there are four main themes continued through the program, caveman rock pictorial presentation of energy, molecular structures, human body and the summary process chart. One of these is demonstrated here - our caveman to represent energy.
Morley, C. G. D. & Blumberg, P. (1987). Learning medical school biochemistry through self directed case oriented study. Biochemical Education, 15(4), 184-88.
Slack-Smith, L. (1992). Excellence and survival teaching biochemistry to nursing students. In Colin Latchem & Allan Herrmann, (Eds), Higher education teaching and learning: The challenge.
|Authors: Patricia K Weaver|
Department of Biochemistry, University of WA
Tel. 09 380 3337. Fax. 09 380 1148
Please cite as: Weaver, P. and Slack-Smith, L. (1994). Interactive energy. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 567-571. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/qz/weaver.html