Sheffield Bioscience Programs was established in 1989 and is at the forefront of using educational technologies to enhance the teaching of physiology and pharmacology. The learning resources are high-quality, interactive computer-assisted learning (CAL) programs principally aimed at undergraduates in physiology, pharmacology, biological sciences, medicine & health-related course. They have been developed by experts in the field and may be used to support conventional teaching, or for self-directed learning.
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Many are simulations of undergraduate laboratory experiments designed to support or even replace 'wet' practicals which demand either expensive equipment and/or a high level of technical expertise. Some may be particularly useful as alternatives to animal experiments. The programs generate simulated tissue responses e.g. muscle contractions or nerve action potentials, which are generated, either from actual experimental results or from predictive models. Responses are presented on the computer screen, in a form comparable to that in the real experiment i.e. simulated storage oscilloscope or chart recorder. Students are expected to simulate many of the tasks associated with practical class teaching such as determining experimental parameters, and collecting data in much the same way as they would if they performed them in the laboratory. They work at their own pace and most take readily to this form of teaching, often requesting to use the software in their own time for independent study. In many cases the programs use text and colour graphics to describe the preparation, the apparatus, methods and the underlying physiology and/or pharmacology. Most contain self-assessment questions or student-centred tasks. Some of these are Clinical simulations and include virtual patients - interactive programs providing clinical laboratory data and case histories of typical clinical disorders. They also provide background information on tests and the underlying pathophysiology.
A smaller number are Interactive tutorials - designed to support lectures or seminars. Text, graphics and features such as animations and hotwords are combined with interactive student tasks, and problem-solving exercises to reinforce learning.