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Alan Bleasby ajb at s-crim1.dl.ac.uk
Fri Oct 21 14:39:16 EST 1994


      A free, self-paced, interactive course on the biological WWW 

                Sponsored by Birkbeck College, London, UK
and the Virtual School of Natural Sciences of the Globewide Network Academy

        We are developing a course on Protein Structure to be offered in 
January 1995 and available to anyone on the Web.  This course will break
completely new ground in education and training as it uses tools and ideas
that have only become possible with the development of the Internet and
multimedia.  Leading protein structure groups have freely offered their 
services as consultants to help develop it.

        The course (which carries no accreditation) breaks the tradiional
mould of 'teacher' and 'student' and offers several different methods of
*learning*. It is designed for many types of people including professional
biologists in other disciplines who wish to learn more about this
essential aspect of modern biology. 

        We are seeking additional consultants now and will be starting to
register students in November 1994.  Much course material is in place and
the rest will be generated by the end of the year (but we'd be delighted 
to be offered any additional material).  The course will use several
radically new methods of learning including interactive sessions in 
the virtual environment at BioMOO and (free) software for molecular 
visualisation and self-assessment.  Students will have an important role 
in helping to create course material while they learn and we intend that 
there will be scope for project work.
Essential Information
        Please do not mail us at present to enquire about registration as a 
student, course details, or technology as this will be automated through
the WWW CGI-forms technology.  The course has a HOME PAGE at:
which we intend to mirror at various sites.  The minimum equipment required
to take the course will be a modern machine (PC, Mac or UNIX) connected to 
WWW and capable of running forms and graphics browsers (e.g. Mosaic, MacWeb, 
XEmacs).  You (or your local sysperson) should be able to install simple
packages (e.g. RasMol, Kinemage) on the machine.

        Offers of consultancy or material should be posted to:
        vsns-pps-offers at tsun.desy.de
Additional information (for greater detail see the WWW pages)

Course Content:
- - - - - - - -
        The course has three components, all of which will be partly 
        - Technology of the biological Web (databases, programs, BioMOO)
        - Principles of protein structure (basic chemistry and biology,
                primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary).
These two will run in parallel and will have objectives which will help
students measure their progress.
        - Protein structure and function.  This will concentrate on a number
                of key structural families (e.g. proteases, immunoglobulins,
                membrane proteins, etc).

The course will *not* cover some of the areas which interact with protein
structure such as molecular evolution, protein folding, reaction mechanisms,
drug design, protein engineering.  However we shall have a series of 
electronic discussion groups and it is possible for course members to 
branch out into areas like these on a 'self-help' basis.

- - - - -
        The course is designed for 'virtual' students, who may never meet
any of the other course members in real life (IRL).  Students are expected
to 'pay' for this course by contributing in some way such as producing
material,helping with technology, or leading electronic discussions. 
Since feedback is vital for the consultants we shall require that all
students are prepared to contribute in some way and this will be part of
the basis of selection. 

        We need to set a limit to student numbers as this limits the e-mail
pressure on consultants and the load on BioMOO and other servers.  There will
be a selection proceedure which will encourage: 
        - commitment to the course
        - diversity of disciplines
        - geographical and cultural diversity   

        We also anticipate that there may be RL students who work close to
a consultant.  These may or may not be on a formal accredited course, but
it is not intended that they get special attention; an important benefit is
added feedback for the consultants. 

Downloading the course:
- - - - - - - - - - - -
        We intend to make the course downloadable for personal use (although
this may take a little time).  Anyone who wishes to use the course material for 
teaching or training should consult us beforehand.

Timescale and Flexibility:
- - - - - - - - - - - - -       
        Two of us were involved in the first virtual course on the Internet
(on C++) and are using experience there to plan the timescale.  15 weeks seems
about right, with a weekly commitment from students of at least 5 hours/week.
The course will, however, have a great deal of flexibility since some things 
will work better than others, and there will also be more resources on 
the Web when we start!  Because of this we are quite prepared to change 
direction and no-one who wants a quiet life need apply!  We are also very
receptive to suggestions from course members.

Course organisers

        Consultants have offered their services from Birkbeck, UCL, Manchester,
Daresbury, Glaxo, Aarhus, Uppsala, DESY, Duke, Columbia, Brookhaven, BioMOO and
elsewhere (see WWW pages).  Please don't mail them about the course - they will
only have to bounce it to us!  The administrative aspects of the course are
being run by:
        Marcus Speh (DESY/Berlin, DE) for the VSNS and GNA
        Alan Mills (Crystallography, Birkbeck College, UK)
and me
        Peter Murray-Rust (Glaxo and Birkbeck, UK)

We expect a heavy load of mail so please limit it at present to:
        vsns-pps-offers at tsun.desy.de
and wait until further information appears on the WWW pages.

There is also a comments form which we'd like you to use rather than mail
where possible: 

Peter Murray-Rust (pmr1716 at ggr.co.uk) Glaxo Research and Development, Greenford
mbglx at seqnet.dl.ac.uk (Mailbox at Daresbury by kind permission of Alan Bleasby)

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