Developing a digital environment for teaching and learning parasitology.
Eukaryotic parasites represent serious human health threats that require health professionals with the necessary foundation in parasitology to prevent infections and minimise morbidity and mortality in humans. However, the teaching of parasitology is usually a small part in the curricula of microbiology courses, and recent surveys have highlighted a poor understanding of zoonotic diseases by medical practitioners. To facilitate the teaching of parasitology and parasitic infectious diseases, teaching which is negligible across the different undergraduate and taught masters degrees at De Montfort University (DMU, UK), a group from different EU Universities [DMU and the Spanish Universities of San Pablo CEU (USP-CEU) and University Miguel Hernández], and practising Biomedical Scientists from the UK National Health Service are developing an on-line package for teaching and learning parasitology named DMU e-Parasitology. This package will be publicly available on the DMU website here http://parasitology.dmu.ac.uk/ when completed in 2018. The DMU e-Parasitology will have three sections: a theoretical module with up-to-date units to study major human parasites from a multidisciplinary, translational programme, which covers all the challenges for addressing these serious and chronic disabling diseases; a virtual laboratory module with units related to techniques and equipment for detecting, identifying and study parasitic diseases; and a virtual microscope with a real slide collection of clinical samples of parasites. This digital learning environment will reinforce self-learning, so units present different formative assessments in the form of a quiz, activity and/or exam. Additionally, interactive clinical case studies with different degrees of difficulty are being created to facilitate the acquisition of clinical and parasitology skills including key transversal competences such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students will use the virtual microscope to resolve the case studies by identifying morphologically the parasite(s) in different clinical samples displayed in the case studies. The first theoretical unit was created in 2016 on Toxocara and tested with a focus group at USP-CEU that provided feedback to build an appropriate and robust unit that is being used as a model. The focus group’s perception of the DMU e-Parasitology was overwhelmingly positive. We consider that this novel digital learning environment will facilitate the introduction of parasitology in any human health science degree by overcoming barriers of time, space, equipment and resources. Finally, this resource could actively engage students’ interest in parasitology by promoting active and self-learning.
Citation:Pena-Fernandez, A., Magnet, A., Acosta, L., Evans, M.D., and Fenoy M.S. (2018) Developing a digital environment for teaching and learning parasitology. Higher Education Academy STEM conference 2018, Newcastle, Jan – Feb 2018.
Research Group:Infectious Disease Research Group