Saturday, December 5, 2015

Teaching genetics

Summer before last, I taught my first online classes, in introductory and behavioral genetics. It was a ton of fun and I learned a lot about how to teach genetics online to students with a variety of backgrounds and interests. I have since been itching to try again after redesigning the courses to take what I learned into account. In addition to my own experiences, I’m drawing on advice from Rosie Redfield’s excellent and very approachable paper on how to design a modern genetics class. She teaches Useful Genetics for EdX based on these principles, so check that out, too!

DNA being repaired by an enzyme

So I’m hugely looking forward to teaching a series of genetics courses for the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). The plan is to cover all the material that a college-level genetics course would cover, but to do it in a way that makes the material accessible to students who aren’t in college and can’t commit to a massive course all at once. So I’m planning to teach four separate courses. They will be completely modular: you can take them in any order, or take some but not all of them. If they prove popular, I hope to continue to offer them in coming years, so that students can enter and leave the flow of classes without worrying that there won’t be another chance to take a particular class.

Anyways, the first class in this series is starting January 11, 2016, online at IAABC. It’s a course in molecular genetics — what is DNA, what are genes, how in the world do these tiny little molecules deep inside your cells code for processes that make you who you are? (And your dog who he is, and your horse who he is, and...) The topic list for the class is:

  • the molecular structure of DNA
  • DNA replication and mutations
  • transcription of DNA to RNA
  • translation of RNA to proteins
  • protein structure and function
  • genome sequencing
  • variation between individual genomes
  • genetic testing for disease (how it works, how reliable it is)
  • new advances in gene editing
Future classes will cover heritability (how do your parents pass genetic information on to you?), population genetics (focusing on breeds, what it means to be a purebred, and the consequences of inbreeding), and oh yes, everyone’s favorite, behavoral genetics (which you’ll be able to take without taking the others — but you’ll get more out of it if you take the others first).

More info? Sign up? At IAABC.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Bring ’em on.

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