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From practical cookbook session to practical research session

How do I conduct research? How do I structure, conduct and record what I’ve thought of and done? The Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences Programme didn’t just want students to perform a series of tests for the Cellular Biochemistry practical course. After a complete re-vamp - ‘From traditional cookbook lab session to research lab session’ - the second-year course has become more exciting and insightful. It also prepares students better for their careers, says coordinator Professor Erik Danen. This is part 2 of a series of articles about lecturers on innovation in education.

Preparation

One of the goals was that students would prepare better for the practical session. The online learning environment LabBuddy appeared to be ideal for this. Danen: ‘In this practical course we research medicine against cancer to which some tumours are sensitive and others aren’t. To conduct good research, you have to think about many things, such as: how long do I expose the tumours to the medicine? And how do I select the best tests that together will unravel the medicine-resistance mechanism? Students think about these matters more when online. They prepare much better and are able to ask specific questions. They enter the room with a completely different mindset.’

Higher grades

Compared to four years ago, students on average receive higher grades for practical sessions, theory and the research report. In turn, students also assess the course with a higher grade. Education reform adviser Marjo de Graauw: ‘Students are more challenged. Their motivation is higher. They don’t experience the feeling that they all have to do the same thing. They can choose their own path to find answers, which is exciting and attractive.’ The new structure is now also being applied in the follow-up practical course Administering and Dispensing Medicines. According to Marjo de Graauw, this course too is already giving better results.

Difficult

The most difficult part was the organisational aspect. Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences has undergone tremendous growth and it was a challenge to organise classrooms, materials, samples and a sufficient number of electrical sockets for ten groups of 24 students. ‘It challenged us to be creative. Good coordination and a broad overview are important aspects. We started making arrangements half a year in advance.'

Financing

The programme received a grant from the Leiden University Fund (LUF) for designing the LabBuddy online learning environment. Under supervision, student assistants have designed the contents of the platform.

From left to right: Marjo de Graauw, Merei Huigsloot, Erik Danen

Tip

‘For students and lecturers it’s so much more exciting when you’re conducting actual research rather than when you’re applying different techniques to it.’

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