Auburn University’s Food Systems Institute was awarded a grant by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to create a simulation explaining the processes of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and Gel Electrophoresis. Although several other organizations had previously developed simulations covering the topics of PCR and Gel Electrophoresis, Auburn University was looking for a more interactive and engaging way to present information to their students and FDA agents. The simulation also needed to be integrated into Canvas, an open-source learning management system (LMS) used by the university, and available on the web and mobile devices.
To ensure all of Auburn University’s goals were met, Designing Digitally, Inc. developed a 3D animated, HTML5, web-based eLearning Simulation that immerses learners in the lab and walks them through each detailed step of the PCR and Gel Electrophoresis procedures.
The simulation is divided into three lessons, each represented by a room in the lab. The individual rooms contain specific tasks and phases of the process for learners to study and review. Learners begin in the Antechamber, a preparation room where proper safety equipment is covered before entering the labs. After learners enter the labs, they are guided through proper lab techniques and processes for gathering all items needed to learn about PCR and Gel Electrophoresis. Learners are required to go through each detailed step, including safety equipment, sanitization, and proper disposal of used equipment.
Avoiding the monotony of a point and click simulation was important, so the Designing Digitally, Inc. team worked to include detailed 3D animations and custom designed interactivity to educate learners and reinforce information. This allows learners the ability to experience the lab and the technique of performing processes before entering the actual lab. Repeated exercises help ensure learners are familiar with each important aspect of work inside the lab, reducing the likelihood of mistakes. Through detailed animations learners can see what happens during the PCR process itself, providing them with a better understand of what PCR is and how it works.
The 3D simulation is provided to university students by professors and is an integrated part of their lessons. Bookmarking and scoring allow professors to easily see when a student has completed the course and are ready for the next step in their education. Auburn University uses Canvas, an open source learning management system (LMS). While Canvas LMS does not support SCORM, Designing Digitally, Inc. was able to create a custom work-around that allows for the module to retain complete scoring functionality.
Auburn University has been very pleased with the appearance and functionality of the project. The university will provide their PCR Standard Simulation in their LMS. Any parties interested in experiencing the simulation should contact Auburn University or William Shaw of Auburn University.
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