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Peer Review

The Virtual Transgenic Fly Lab

by Donna Messersmith


Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Feb 04, 2010 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: This Howard Hughes Medical Institute educational module has two main parts - the first part takes the user through the process of generating a transgenic fruit fly, while the second part uses the transgenic flies to test several hypotheses about how circadian rhythms are controlled. The module has a window on the left that uses shockwave to present images of lab equipment and data for various experiments. The user interacts with the instruments and flies to make the transgenic flies and to carry out the experiments, while a window on the right has descriptions of the techniques and links to additional information. In addition to simulations of the experiments their are occasional animations of the molecular events taking place. After each major step there is a simple multiple choice quiz. After taking the quiz the results are immediately shown along with explanations Dow what was wrong with all the incorrect choices.
Type of Material: Tutorial
Recommended Uses: Out of class tutorial
Technical Requirements: Shockwave
Identify Major Learning Goals: Understand how recombinant DNA technology is used to produce transgenic flies. Use light production as an external marker of internal molecular events. Explore the relationship between genes and behavior. Understand how transgenic organisms can be used to explore complex biological processes. Learn that all organisms contain an internal molecular clock that regulates daily rhythms.
Target Student Population: Advanced biology students
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Knowledge of basic molecular biology

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
  • Accurate explanations and demonstrations of an advanced technique in molecular biology
  • Very well drawn animations
  • Focuses on both the technical steps and experimental application of an important technology
  • A good demonstration of the scientific process with students choosing hypotheses and then experimentally testing them.
  • Includes references to the scientific papers that the experiments are based on
  • Tables of data from the experiments are not analyzed statistically

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.75 stars
  • Uses interactive animations to illustrate the techniques described in the text window.
  • Includes embedded quizz questions
  • Asks students to troubleshoot an experiment
  • Requires analysis of scientific data
  • Most of the animations have little interactivity, as there is usually only one possible action
  • Students don't get to design their own experiment, but must choose from one of two prepared experiments.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
  • Easy to navigate
  • Clear, high quality animations
  • Zooms in at different levels of magnification where appropriate
  • Students can jump ahead in the tutorial if they choose
  • The program remembers where the students were at their last visit, and the students can choose to pick up where they left off or start over again.
  • None