Case It! - a collaborative BioQUEST project to enhance case-based learning in university and high school biology education worldwide via molecular biology computer simulations and Internet conferencing

Mark Bergland, Mary Lundeberg, Marlys A. Nelson

Abstract


Case It! is a National Science Foundation-sponsored project initiated by participants in the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium. The goal of this project is to enhance case-based learning in high school and university biology courses worldwide via molecular biology computer simulations and Internet "poster sessions". Students first play the roles of laboratory technicians as they analyze DNA sequences associated with particular cases and construct web page posters giving results of genetic testing. They then play the roles of genetics counsellors and family members as they ask and answer questions concerning these tests. To accomplish this, students use three software tools: Case It! Investigator1 to gather background information, the Case It! simulation2 to analyze DNA, and the Case It! Launch Pad3 to access a web page editor and Internet conferencing system. (Note: The latest versions of both the Macintosh and PC versions of Case It! Investigator and the Case It! simulation are currently available for downloading4, free of charge for educational use. These two applications are also part of the BioQUEST Library of inquiry-based software.)

Although the Case It! simulation works with any DNA sequence, we have concentrated on human genetic disease cases because of the high degree of student interest in these cases and ethical ramifications which make them particularly well suited for spirited discussion and debate. Cases developed and class-tested to date include Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer, sickle-cell disease, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria, Huntington's disease, and fragile-X syndrome.

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