Students from all over the planet have participated in the two courses
which the Virtual School of Natural Sciences BioComputing Division has
offered up to date, in the summers of 1995 and 1996. They just needed a
connection to the Internet, including electronic mail and WWW access. They
were taught the basics and theoretical foundations of DNA and protein sequence
analysis, with a special emphasis on Internet resources.
They worked their way through the BioComputing Hypertext Coursebook, supplemented by weekly online meetings on the electronic conferencing system BioMOO, and email discussion. They were 37 altogether, forming 6 small groups that were each coached by one instructor.
They were undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral students and even professors from other disciplines. And they developed an amazing synergy and enthusiasm, for the subject matter and beyond !
3/4 of them stayed with us until the very end, and 1/4 participated in the writing and assembly of our Biocomputing For Everyone WWW Pages !
A diverse group of people organized the course, wrote the hypertext coursebook, developed supplemental resources like a glossary and animations, and guided the students through the course. This coaching was the most crucial contribution: Giving personal feedback via email and the electronic conferencing system, the instructors answered questions about the book, the homework, and biocomputing in general. Lively discussions were sustained in all groups until the end of the course, and two guest lectures were given by experts. One of them featured the author of the well-known "FASTA" software package, Bill Pearson. The other crucial contribution was the Hypertext Coursebook, written by authors from Germany, USA, and Mexico. It includes live links to WWW resources offering sequence analysis services. In their constant struggle for up-to-dateness, many authors spent countless hours of overtime on writing and updating their chapters.
Internet/Computer technology is not yet as easy to use as one would like, so there was a strong need for help in setting up WWW-Browsers, tools associated with the electronic conferencing system, and printing out parts of the hypertext coursebook. The latter proved to be more popular than you may imagine, simply because comments on texts, and mathematical formulae in particular, are still best done on paper. Other consultants helped with
Many students were admitted to the course in return for their voluntary contribution as a consultant, they were "consulting students".
The Future !