were fundamental to our teaching approach:
The BioMOO electronic conference system lightens up the course by making it possible for the participants to do text-based realtime-communication. Once a week every study group held their session in which homework evaluation and discussions about the Hypertext Coursebook were interspersed with spontaneous discussions, and even little birthday parties. The instructors met regularly to exchange experiences and the whole course was invited to guest lectures, to the Welcome Party, and to discussions regarding the course's prospects. An article published in the "Chronicle of Higher Education" describing our course especially deals with social interactions in BioMOO (see enclosure).
Screenshot: The conference system's WWW-interface is shown; the interaction
itself takes place in a different window.
The sessions motivated the participants by giving a weekly stimulus. The discussion of difficult concepts with the instructor and other students alternated with amusing interactions. A little program called the "Aligner" is installed in BioMOO allowing a student to calculate an alignment of two biological sequences step by step in front of everybody, and there are also "virtual fireworks", useful for birthday parties and the like...
The screenshot shows the status of the "Aligner" after
the student has typed in the sequences and has calculated the alignment.
The alignment and the corresponding matrix can be seen by the other members
of the study group as well as every action the student carries out with
Coursebook serves as the starting point for the interactive
discussions. It deals with the usage of Internet resources, the calculation
of the alignment of two or more sequences (Pairwise / Multiple Alignment),
with searches in databases, with phylogenetic trees and various other topics.
Homework is included, to be handed in weekly; solution sheets are available.
Sometimes ingenious students could find these solutions by hunting through
of other study groups, since some honest students loaded their solutions
on their personal WWW pages. In the 1996 Course a small Hypertext-Book
was created explaining BioComputing for
were used specificly for some central concepts:
The alignment of two biological sequences calculated by a not obvious algorithm is the first hard problem for many students. While the "Aligner" described above makes a step by step calculation possible, one of the students designed a WWW-page where important variations of the algorithm can be studied.
Screenshot: On the left is the "Control Panel", where the
variations can be set. On the right you can see the output, among
others matrix and alignment. (Original
The alignment of three biosequences can be demonstrated in a threedimensional cube. A Java-Applet allows a student to construct and rotate such a cube interactively in the WWW-browser, and to observe the alignment from every perspective.
Screenshot: The sequence input and the alignment are shown. At the
bottom the rotatable cube is displayed, including the red "alignment
path". (Original figure.)
Other interactive WWW applications are a searchable glossary and Java-Applets visualizing the biomolecules mentioned in the course.
Screenshot: The terms explained in our glossary are not only
but provide links to the 'outside' as well. For example the page shown links to
Internet tools allowing the calculation of multiple alignments.
play an important role in our course as well. Electronic Mail is a fundamental part of asynchronous communication among the participants. We installed distribution lists for each study group, the instructors, consultants, and all participants together. Now and then even faxes and greetings cards were sent!