An Evaluation of Web-Based Case Studies in Microscopy
It is often difficult to provide students in introductory science courses with opportunities that mimic the investigative learning experience of doing research. This is particularly true in microbiology courses where advanced microscopy techniques are expensive and difficult to do. To that end, we developed three computer-based case studies around real-life scenarios. Our goals were to: (i) improve students’ understanding of advanced microscopic techniques, (ii) give students practice analyzing and interpreting data, and (iii) model a scientific approach to how these techniques are applied to current issues in microbiology. Each case requires students to use references and interpret actual microscopic images, thus giving them a more realistic experience than we could previously provide. We analyzed student learning and perceptions to these case studies. After doing the case studies, students were more able to apply microscopic methods to a realistic problem, thus demonstrating an understanding of how the methods are used. Students appreciated the intellectual challenges presented by having to interpret and analyze actual microscopic images. This approach has allowed us to introduce new areas of content to our course and to stimulate critical thinking skills, a difficult task in a large introductory microbiology course.
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