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Peer Review

WEHI-TV Molecular Visualisations of DNA

by Drew Berry


Overall Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 4.5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.25 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Dec 17, 2012 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: This site contains a collection of 14 short, award-winning biomedical animations developed by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. The animations are of exceptionally high quality and demonstrate in 3D a variety of topics from DNA transcription/translation to the malaria life cycle and insulin production. The visualizations are scientifically accurate and sophisticated yet also clear and accessible. However, many animations lack narration or written explanations and therefore may be best used as part of a lecture.
Learning Goals: The principal goal is to increase understanding of molecular and cellular processes that are difficult to visualize. In addition, students will appreciate the dynamic and three-dimensional nature of molecules and processes.
Target Student Population: These animations are appropriate for a wide audience including members of the general public interested in biology, high school students, undergraduate students, and students in pre-professional programs in health sciences
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Some animations require basic knowledge of immunology including basic molecular and cellular terms; the non-narrated animations require prior knowledge of transcription and translation and cell biology
Type of Material: Collection of three-dimensional animations; some are narrated
Recommended Uses: This site could be used (1) in a class lecture to demonstrate a concept that is difficult to visualize when described with words, (2) in a science outreach demonstration (with authors’ permission) or (3) as a study aid for students
Technical Requirements: Requires QuickTime Player to view the animations and requires speakers to hear the narration. Animations ran equally well on Safari and Firefox

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: • Animations are of outstanding quality! • Many of the animations are derived from x-ray crystallography and other data sets, ensuring the visualization of protein structures is extremely accurate. • Demonstrates topics that are difficult to conceptualize with words in a very realistically visual way. • Conveys topics more completely and precisely than any textbook illustration could
Concerns: • It would be useful if the site included a text version of the narration. • Some animations do not contain any narration or labels and thus instructors will need to narrate the process during lecture or provide a text explanation to accompany the video • References could be added.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.25 stars
Strengths: • Provide excellent accurate demonstrations of key processes • A great supplement to a text or as part of a lecture • Provides material for potential test questions • Would be very effective as an in-class demonstration. Could make in-class assignments or discussions.
Concerns: • Videos that do not contain narration would greatly benefit from the addition of text explanations and/or labels during each step of the animated process. • Including questions /problems or allowing students to manipulate the images would make the material more interactive • Would be difficult to use for out of class assignments or exam questions given the pace, level of detail, and lack of explanations.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: • Well organized with a brief description of the animation next to the link to each video • Easy to navigate • No defective links or bugs; videos ran smoothly
Concerns: • Some animations took awhile to load