Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Say hello to the hairy tree rat.... The latest genetics model organism!

In a recent post - Designing a virtual fruit fly lab using HTML5 - I wrote about how I had replaced a fruit fly genetics 'wet' teaching lab session with an online session written using in HTML5. However, one thing I didn't mention was that we invented a new 'model organism' for the assessment - The Hairy Tree Rat.

The reason we came up with the Hairy Tree Rat was because it had become apparent from the original practical that the assessment on fruit fly genetics was 'compromised' as all the answers were available online, which meant that students could 'google' a mark of 100%.

As it now says in the practical:

"You have been tasked with learning about a newly discover mammal; the hairy tree rat. Found on a single island it seems to bear resemblance to the naked mole rat but lives mostly in tree canopies and is hairy! The coat colouration is unusual; most of the rats are rusty coloured (like the tree bark) but some are brown and others are tan coloured. You need to work out the genetic relationships for colour; assume all rats are from true breeding lines (unless the litter is specified)."

By doing this it means we can control the genetics, and we can change the parameters of the assessment, so we can now assess the the students against the learning outcomes, and be fairly confident that the students haven't 'googled' the answers.