Nagaoka University of TechnologyTitle –
Online education has gained considerable attention due to measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, lectures using books and videos require “verbal memory,” which uses the hippocampus, while practical exercises require “procedural memory,” which uses the cerebellum; they employ different parts of the brain. Thus, in topics in the field of bioengineering, including PCR tests, medicine, and animal research, as well as those in manufacturing, educational books and videos are insufficient, and courses with hands-on training in practical exercises are indispensable.
Here, inspired by a flight simulator, we developed an online virtual learning system for bioengineering experiments, named Bio-Maister, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) content to run on it. The PCR method is basic technology learned in higher education, such as in the senior level of bioengineering programs in technical colleges and universities. However, it is also a complex experiment that requires the use of more than 10 expensive reagents, more than 20 different types of large and small instruments, and the precise manual execution of several hundred steps over several hours. It is also highly hazardous because of the use of carcinogens. PCR content on Bio-Maister allows users to learn the PCR method step-by-step while operating on a PC. This method was implemented in an actual class of 60 students and received high grades from the students. We plan to develop much more content, such as antigen-antibody reactions, cell culture, and gene editing, while further developing the application as a tool for students to prepare for hands-on experiments.
In the future, we aim to develop a remote tool that allows students to safely learn advanced manual operations not only in bioengineering, but also in chemical experiments and various machine operations, without requiring much money, time, and efforts, thus contributing to engineering education.