Rachel Berkson

Rachel Berkson

Education Manager at Wellcome Connecting Science, UK. Background in cancer genetics then education. Particularly interested in inclusive education.

Location UK

Activity

  • Thanks for this report, Keeley. It seems that some learners didn't fully understand the assignment task, which points to problems with how the course is constructed. I'm sorry that you had a disappointing experience with peer review, but I hope you found it informative to work on your own course design.

  • I'm really glad to hear that you got some useful and encouraging feedback as well as the disheartening response that didn't match the effort you put in. It definitely is useful for us as educators to hear that the peer review task was only partially successful. We'll be reflecting on how to improve the instructions for submitting and marking the assignments...

  • Thanks for reporting on your experience, M G. This peer review task was fairly complex, and it's a useful learning point to realize that not everybody understood how to complete the assignment. Thanks for persevering and giving what feedback you could, even if one of your assignments didn't have a clear structure.

  • @SusanC @KeeleyMcCabe I understand your concerns. Although the course is officially three weeks in duration, the educator team are still around and we do try to catch up with comments that have come in a bit later. The course will remain open for 6 weeks after the official end date, so you will still have plenty of time to review the material and work on your...

  • Thanks for reporting that you were unable to see the video. I'm sorry that you had that experience; the best suggestion I have is that you can read the transcript linked below the video and in the Downloads area. That way you can read what this week's instructors have to say even if you can't hear them.

  • That's great, Bahar. Much clearer articulation of the aims and goals of the course. I look forward to seeing how this develops as you work through this week and next.

  • @SusanC I find H5P really easy to use - they have a lot of pre-built templates that you can just slot your content into, but also flexible as you can tweak the code as much as you need to. Personally, I have only used the site as part of FutureLearn courses ie purely online, not in a face-to-face classroom.

  • Can you say a bit more? What aspect of Public Health Genomics? Can you think about your goals and objectives and why this training is needed?

  • This is a great idea, Mara! Effective design is important in informal training too. A short lab meeting activity introducing the Pseudomonas genome database sounds like it will be really valuable both for you and your colleagues.

  • Your learning outcomes are coming together and give me an idea of the level and content of your course, which is a great start. The one about the Unix command-line could do with more specifics; what sort of data? What sort of analysis? Using the command-line is a fairly complex skillset in itself, so perhaps you could give an idea of the level of competence...

  • This set of LOs gives me a pretty clear idea what will be in your course. I think perhaps the first one would benefit from some refinement: how will you know whether students understand these key concepts? Will they be able to explain them? Use them in calculations? Use them to describe or predict the behaviour of a structure?

  • Interesting to see enthusiasm for hybrid design in the comments here. Hybrid really can be the best of both worlds, but be aware that it can be a lot of work to create training that can work in either format. If you need flexibility to be able to switch formats at short notice, or if you have a mixture of in-person and online learners in the same activity,...

  • A workshop giving an introduction to the field could be a great design project. I'm interested to see what ideas you come up with as you progress through the course.

  • That's a great question, Aneth. I would say giving adults a say in the content and process is not the same as giving them completely free choice with no direction or guidance.

    For example, the curriculum may specify that the students need to learn how to perform a sequence alignment with a particular tool, but you might give them a choice of exactly which...

  • I like Nicole's description that undergraduates are "between adulthood and childhood". There is no hard-and-fast rule about the exact boundary of who counts as an adult learner - it depends on the context, the culture, the structure and expectations of the course etc. Personally I have facilitated successful learning activities by applying andragogy...

  • What an amazing example of using reflection and evaluation to improve your teaching, and seeing a measurable impact.

  • @HeatherGibling That's fine, Heather. The course will remain open for a further 6 weeks after this weekend. If you submit your assignment next week or later, you will be 'paired' with another learner who is also taking things a bit more slowly, so that hopefully you will get feedback and get an opportunity to review another learner's assignment.

  • Please can you avoid copying and pasting comments from other learners on the course? You don't have to reply to every step - just clicking the 'Mark as complete' button will register that you have done the step so you can get the certificate at the end of the course. If you copy from others it's hard for fellow learners and Educators to know what is really...

  • It's impressive that you were able to change the course on the fly to cover more basic research skills. This is a really good illustration of why it's important to find out as much as possible about your students' prior knowledge, and also to be flexible and responsive as the course progesses.

  • That's a really good observation. We've had similar trouble with live online sessions, if trainees don't have reliable internet access there can be real problems. You came up with a good solution by following up afterwards to check progress and understanding even if trainees couldn't attend the contact sessions. But that does create a lot of extra work for the...

  • It's certainly hard to argue that we need experts in detection and surveillance of viral infections! It will be interesting to see as the week goes on how you will approach training people in these skills. You're looking at producing experts, and you've outlined that your learners will need to know a lot of different areas; doing PCR to amplify viral genomes...

  • Great start. I particularly like how you've divided up your theoretical knowledge from your practical skills. Having those categories clear in your mind should help with designing appropriate learning activities.

  • Your description sounds good to me. At this stage we're only trying to decide the high-level objectives for the course, it's fine if your specific learning outcomes need a bit more refinement before you're ready to submit your final project.

  • Creating an MSc module which can also be a stand-alone course can be a real challenge, and it's likely to prompt some really strong design decisions. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this as the next two weeks progress.

  • Interesting concept, designing training for one person. Many of us have to train new colleagues but we may not put thought into the design as the training happens fairly informally. Starting from good design practice could be really beneficial here!

  • It will be really useful to be thinking about improvements for a course you have already run for real. What do you think would make the biggest difference to your analysis module?

  • That's great, Heather. We recently developed a similar course as a FutureLearn MOOC and there was huge demand for those topics. The course isn't currently open but you can have a look at the landing page with overview and learning outcomes: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/linux-for-bioinformatics/1

  • This course uses the basic format of a MOOC (massive open online course), and the learning approach is referred to as 'conversational learning' with the emphasis on the discussion section. Another term I might apply would be 'semi-synchronous' - although you are not all online simultaneously, you are working through the material at roughly the same pace,...

  • To clear up some potential confusion: when we refer to 'evaulation' in this course we are talking about evaluation of the course or learning activity itself. We use the term 'assessment' to refer to measuring the performance of students. Of course, knowing how the students are doing and whether they achieve the Learning Outcomes might be one element of your...

  • The Bloom pyramid is by no means the only way of classifying different learning activities and outcomes, it's just very commonly used in education. The important thing is to make sure your learning plan is aligned: the learning activities and assessment should be relevant to the level of the intended outcomes.

    As you point out, if you want learners to be...

  • That is a great point about the difficulty of adaptation to the learners' needs in an asynchronous course. The approach we are using here is for educators to monitor the course, and if we see that several learners are struggling with a particular topic or activity, we can "pin" a comment with further explanation or additional resources at the top of the...

  • This is not necessarily true. A short course can be very suitable for learning to analyse or evaluate. Learners might already have a good grounding in the subject area and are looking to build their skills in a specific technique. They might for example look at some previous experimental results and apply statistical methods to that data to argue for or...

  • This seems like a good approach, Faisal. In this short introductory course there isn't enough time to develop a whole MSc, but you should be able to apply your learning to the design of an individual module.

    The educator team mainly specialize in professional training, and we have drawn most of our examples from that domain. We do have experience in Higher...

  • When we refer to 'evaulation' in this course we are talking about evaluation of the course itself. We use the term 'assessment' to refer to measuring the performance of students. Of course, knowing how the students are doing and whether they achieve the Learning Outcomes might be one element of your evaluation, so you could use assessment data as one of your...

  • This is a great framing, I love the idea of teaching students, that is people, rather than only teaching a subject. We'll be discussing a lot more about bringing in students' life knowledge as we go through the course.

  • It's not an uncommon situation that the people who become educators were the ones who were most highly motivated by their learning as students, so may not fully understand how to teach groups with more mixed levels of interest. It is good to reflect on how to design activities with broad interest and appeal, and also how to harness that inherent passion when...

  • You're absolutely right that training to bridge disciplines is a key challenge in bioinformatics especially, and one we will be discussing throughout the course. I like your range of examples here: biologists may be put off by too computer science, or may want more detail than can be covered in a short course.

  • I really appreciated hearing from clinicians and scientists about how new technologies are impacting practice now and what might change in the future.

  • Rachel Berkson made a comment

    I think there's a lot of potential in gene therapy such as described in the article, where it is used to enhance autologous stem cell transplantation. I'm not convinced it will ever be possible to cure genetic diseases by direct gene editing of differentiated cells though. The recent preliminary results in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy are really encouraging and...

  • Great examples - but these are all single gene tests, not genomic!

  • This is a difficult one. Generally targeted therapies are more expensive than traditional chemotherapy, and biologics are fantastically expensive. Some money will be saved by not treating people with ineffective drugs, and dealing with fewer adverse reactions. My main concern is drug development though; it is very difficult for companies to get ROI from...

  • I only half believe in personalized medicine. I love the idea of looking at someone's genetic profile and using that to inform what drug should be prescribed. But it seems like one of those technologies that's always just around the corner. I think there's a lot of mileage in partial steps, like, ok, we can look at a small panel of genes to decide whether...

  • In theory I'm happy to just hand over my genome and associated family history to my GP - I trust her personally, and I'm lucky to belong to a really good practice. But it really seems urgent to improve the level of protection for medical data, before genomic information is routinely available. There have been too many cases of medical data shared with...

  • We're probably quite close to the point where at least some genetic testing is cheap enough to do in a primary care setting. If we get there, it will be like any other diagnostic test: ideally used to support a GP's clinical judgement. In reality there may be some tendency to over-rely on a test that gives a quantitative or yes/no answer, at the expense of...

  • My family is an extremely cardiovascular family, relatives on both sides basically always die of some kind of heart problem. Very little cancer, very little diabetes. Most of what is recommended for heart health is generally a good idea anyway, such as eating healthily and doing plenty of exercise, so I haven't taken any special precautions. I have siblings...

  • The advantage of a cardiac autopsy would be that the relatives might find comfort in knowing the underlying cause of sudden death, rather than it being a complete mystery. If the cause of death was genetic then relatives could be tested. The disadvantage is that it requires a very skilled pathologist and most importantly that PM diagnosis is too late to save...

  • I would say in the short term use of genomics methods to track outbreaks of infectious disease and prescribe the right antibiotics. That is because the technology to do this is already mature and is available cheaply enough for use in low-resource settings where the burden of infectious disease is particularly acute. We are also in the middle of an ID pandemic...

  • I had never really been clear on the advantages of CGH over karyotyping, and this week has really cleared that up for me. I feel I have a better understanding in general of which tests are used in which clinical circumstances and what information is available from each.

  • I'm not convinced by replacing 'mutation' with 'mistake'. I would generally say that 'mutation' is a fairly commonly known word. Perhaps the first time it's used, the doctor might say, 'a mutation, that's like a type of change or mistake in your gene', but after that use the term 'mutation'. For me, a sentence like "And the family history in you, Mrs....

  • There is a shift in NHS culture from writing referral letters from specialist to GP, towards addressing referral letters directly to the patient. In this case I think the primary audience should probably be general clinicians. The report contains highly specialist information and it is the job of the clinician to be able to interpret it in a way that is...

  • I think ethnic divergence among SNPs often indicates a founder population or bottleneck effect, where all people from a particular area have a recent common ancestor in common. The rate of mutation of a particular nucleotide position is quite low, so most people in a population of a particular ethnic origin would share the same SNP as their ancestors. An...

  • I think the fact that genome sequencing generates so much data that computer assistance is needed to analyse it could introduce a new set of problems. What if the computer's algorithms are inconsistent or based on wrong assumptions in the model? It would probably take a long time to find out. A clinician can use their judgement to interpret a simple test, but...

  • 'Copperfastened' is a new word for me! Thanks for that. I am not sure the GDPR is strong enough to rely on for genomic data, information commissioners don't have sufficient power to deal with medically significant breaches I would say.

  • My initial thought is that long-term, secure storage is both a technical and an organizational problem. Supposing the NHS stores my genome on a huge computer today - in 10 years' time, will the file still even be readable? But more seriously, will the NHS still be a publicly owned and widely trusted organization? There have already been controversies over EHRs...

  • Well, I'm an educator so a big part of the impact of new technologies is that I constantly have to update my training material so that we are talking about the latest best practice, not some old methods from years ago! Another impact is that the volume of data generated by genomics is too vast for any human to interpret, so everybody has to have some knowledge...

  • I have an ovarian cyst, it was an incidental finding from an investigation for something else. Most likely it's completely harmless, but there's a small chance it could burst. The gynaecologist who discussed it with me did a good job of explaining that I could choose to have surgery or could choose to ignore it, and gave me enough information to decide. Other...

  • Of the remainder, a great deal of DNA is regulatory elements which help to decide when the protein-coding genes get expressed. Some regulate individual genes, and some control larger chromosome regions, controlling the architecture of the DNA. Some of the DNA codes for functional RNAs - they are never translated into proteins but have important effects in the...

  • I think we have all the tools, between NGS and CGH. But just having the tools doesn't mean we understand the genetic basis of all diseases. Many genes, even protein-coding genes, have completely unknown function and even when we do know something about what a gene does, we don't fully understand why a change in that gene causes a particular disease. Also,...

  • I would consider 20% risk of a heart defect to be high risk. Autism and learning difficulties are hugely variable and it's hard to judge risk based on just a number, but 40% still sounds quite high. I would definitely want to know more about the experiences of other patients with similar conditions to the one my child had.

    Explaining risks in a way that...

  • One advantage of array CGH is that it might detect a deletion or insertion even when the gene underlying a condition isn't known. A deletion of 100kB is likely to be significant, whereas a point mutation detected by gene sequencing might be an irrelevant passenger mutation. However, if a region were deleted that wasn't known to contain relevant genes, it might...

  • I think had Venter succeeded in patenting genes, it wouldn't have made that much difference in the long term. His patents would have expired by now in any case! Most likely those patents would have been legally challenged and overturned, as Stephen says there's no clear legal basis for patenting something that is not an original invention. I also agree with...

  • I work at the Sanger campus which contributed a major part of the work to the public, collaborative Human Genome project, so I'm very biased towards that method of doing science. My colleagues still work like this today, for example spearheading a collaborative effort to sequence tens of thousands of SARS-CoV2 genomes with the aim to understand and control the...