Implementing V&C with the HHMI National Genomics Initiative

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Title of Abstract: Implementing V&C with the HHMI National Genomics Initiative

Name of Author: John Hatherill
Author Company or Institution: Del Mar College
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Biotechnology, General Biology, Microbiology, Virology
Course Levels: Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Adding to the literature on how people learn, Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development
Keywords: Authentic research in the classroom, podcasts, pedagogy, 21st century classroom, mobile digital devices

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Dr. J. Robert Hatherill, Del Mar College Dr. Daiyuan Zhang, Del Mar College

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The Del Mar College (DMC) goals include developing new Vision & Change (V&C) concept-based curriculum using actual research and case studies and preparing students’ for the high-performance workplace by equipping them with critical or independent thinking and problem solving abilities, and transforming students by igniting and captivating them with the thrill of real scientific discoveries. The V&C Project Team has observed that research mentored students develop superior lab skills; knowledge and technical competencies compared to traditionally taught students. From assessment and evaluation the V&C students report better performance in science classes, enhanced career options and direction, more self-confidence, better problem solving and critical thinking skills, and better student motivation and career focus. The V&C program is providing student outcomes that simply cannot result from traditionally taught freshman science classes.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: DMC has incorporated the Vision and Change concept-based curriculum by using authentic research experiences, case studies and implementing a new mobile device platform to allow students to review preloaded podcasts of critical laboratory techniques. The curricular reform has followed the Vision and Change initiatives by focusing on the core concepts and competencies rather than memorizing extensive course content. DMC has also embedded an authentic research component into bioscience courses. DMC is a member of the Science Education Alliance program that includes the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) National Genomics Research Initiative, a program that integrates both research and education in genomics for undergraduate students. The program allows undergraduate students to participate in actual research by isolating and characterizing bacterial viruses from local soil. The HHMI program targets and instills the students with a diverse skill set of laboratory skills such as meticulously maintaining a laboratory notebook. Recent emphasis has been placed upon data archiving and record management skills. Other technician skills include the isolation, purification and characterization of bacteriophage, annotation of a complete genome, and presentation skills by preparing scientific posters and presenting at national and regional scientific meetings. The HHMI program incorporates troubleshooting skills that are rarely taught or assessed in traditionally taught classes. Another benefit of research mentoring is that it integrates a competency-based testing of laboratory techniques in V&C students. For example, students that do not use proper aseptic technique will experience contamination and will have to repeat their experiments. The V&C students develop superior skills, knowledge and technical competencies compared to traditionally taught students.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: The HHMI-SEA program is currently assessed and evaluated by one of the most comprehensive surveys of classroom research. The Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) has reported student gains in “understanding the research process” and “learning lab techniques” that persist when the students are assessed nine months later. The V&C project team has also assessed the students with targeted surveys. The V&C project achieved the goals and student outcomes that were originally proposed. Assessment and evaluation data demonstrated the vast majority of students (over 95%) strongly agree or agree that the podcasted lab techniques are a valuable resource for learning critical laboratory procedures and techniques compared to the traditional review of written lab manuals. Access to the podcasts is a critical laboratory tool for students since they can review the laboratory techniques on a recursive basis if needed. The V&C Project Team has observed that students are able to grasp laboratory techniques faster and work more independently. The podcasted lab techniques are targeted to the actual lab equipment and lab techniques needed, which is important to minimize cognitive dissonance. Further the mobile learning devices are equipped with high definition cameras. Therefore in the fall of 2013 when mobile devices are deployed to individual students it will allow them to be part of a remotely accessed WIFI learning community since they can form impromptu study groups from videoconferences. The project team believes this is especially critical for community building in students from nonresidential campuses.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: The V&C Project Team does have preliminary data on student outcomes. The assessment data show that V&C students that participate in undergraduate research show increased retention compared with the traditionally taught classes, greater participation in campus activities (biannual student research days) and integration into the culture and profession of the scientific discipline from presenting at scientific meetings. V&C student researchers have isolated, purified and characterized 46 novel viruses and uploaded them into the phage database. They have annotated two complete viral genomes and are credited with GenBank submissions, received offers of employment (before they graduate), are recruited into other schools, and successfully compete and procure scholarships. Recently 23 V&C Del Mar College (DMC) students presented posters or a presentation at the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) meetings held in March 2012 and 2013 in New Braunfels, TX. Four V&C students won first or second places during the undergraduate student presentation and poster competition held at the ASM meetings. These events are historic since this is the first time all of the research was conducted exclusively in the DMC Department of Natural Sciences. In addition, a DMC V&C student won first place in June 2012 at the HHMI 4th Annual Science Education Alliance Symposium. V&C students have also won 2nd and 3rd place in the oral competitions, 2nd place and honorable mention in the poster competition at the regional Sigma Xi meetings held at Texas A&M University. In summary DMC has sponsored 35 V&C students to attend and compete in poster competitions at regional ASM meetings (New Braunfels and Baylor University in Texas) and national scientific meeting such as the annual AAAS meeting. All of the V&C students (BIOL 1406,1407,1414, & 1415) have presented at the biannual student research days held on Del Mar College campus.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: In order to gain broad acceptance of the Vision and Change initiative, the administration was invited and participated in many of the biannual all-campus student research days. The V&C Project Team has achieved support for implementing Vision and Change from the President, Vice President of Instruction/Provost, the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Natural Sciences Chairman. Future plans to broadly apply the Vision and Change initiatives across the disciplines of natural science are in progress.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: All of the V&C students (over eighty students) from four different life sciences courses have presented at the biannual student research days held on DMC campus. These are widely attended by over 100 students, faculty, family members and administrators per research day. The V&C program also uses websites, Facebook and YouTube videos for dissemination of the program.

Acknowledgements: The DMC V&C Project Team would like to acknowledge the support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Science Foundation, Advanced Technological Education grant, REVISION (DUE 1205059).