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 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 that 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 discovered 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 students against the learning outcomes, and be fairly confident that the students haven't 'googled' the answers.

1 comment:

  1. I always offer to demonstrate this practical, mainly because I find it so fun to teach. Being unable to google answers means the shear number of questions you are asked is higher than usual so it can be quite hectic, but it seems to force the students to engage the brain more so that both the level of the questions themselves and the level of discussion when you try to lead someone through the logic of the problem is a lot higher than I often see in undergraduate practicals. (I also experienced the practical from the student perspective not too long ago ;) )