Benjamin Moore

Benjamin Moore

I am the Ensembl Outreach Project Leader based at EMBL-EBI. I co-ordinate the Ensembl training programme and provide support to scientists using the Ensembl genome browsers and APIs.

Location United Kingdom


  • I agree with point you made that tailoring materials can be laborious. Perhaps the best solution is to have a 'modular' course design and a bank of different examples, case studies and exercises that can be switched in and out depending on the audience?

  • I think that this is a great point- a varied set of activities to help all trainees reach the learning objectives is the most preferable option in my opinion

  • This is also tricky as many bioinformatics/genomics tools and resources are presented in English

  • A very good point. The benefits and challenges of different trainign formats will be explored later in the course.

  • We regularly do this for our courses and the information received from the pre-course survey is so valuable in understanding the trainees areas of interest and learning goals.

  • This is an important consideration when designing the course, Milcah. Will you run the course with an application process with selection, or will the trainees register on a first-come-first-served basis? Open application with selection can help you to deliver a course to an audience that is likely to benefit from the scope of the topics being taught, but comes...

  • I agree, Andrew. Differentiating the competency required for people in different roles is a very important skill!

  • It's great that you were able to adapt your materials for the yeast community, Andrew. Working with experts to find relevant examples and datasets can be really helpful, especially if you are not familiar with the field yourself!

  • I agree, Niamh. I think it's about balancing foundational topics/concepts with the more up-to-date (and perhaps exciting and relevant) topics.

  • I fully agree!

  • It's great to hear that the course is giving you the opportunity to reflect on your course design, Naimh. I would say that there isn't a 'correct' answer and that different formats all have their own benefits and challenges. The trick is harnessing the benefits and using tools/techniques to overcome the challenges!

  • I like that your hybrid courses consisted of wholly virtual or wholly in-person sessions. As a trainer, I tend to find hybrid sessions, where some trainees attend virtually and others in-person, are difficult to manage

  • This sounds like a very well designed session!

  • I fully agree! There are some general learning principles that we can apply but all trainees will have different personal motivations

  • I fully agree. The relevance and practicality points you raised are especially true when considering that PhD students and postdocs are more likely to have on-going projects where the skills/knowledge can be applied

  • It's not always easy for the trainer to control the amount of time that they have for a particular session, but short sessions can be much more effective to pass on a single learning objective.

  • A Whatsapp group is a good idea although I appreciate that some people use it more for their personal interactions so may want to maintain their boundaries and keep any messages separate. Slack groups are another good communication tool to consider.

  • I agree- organic interactions are extremely valuable and 'forced' engagement can become awkward. As you say, it's about providing the opportunities and environment for those organic interactions to occur. This is even more difficult in virtual settings....

  • Being flexible as a trainer and being able to see fi particular conversations or topics are stimulating for the trainees (and then following their interests) is a really important skill!

  • As a trainer, sometimes you have control over the layout of the room and sometimes you don't. But you can always ask yourself what you can do to make the layout of the classroom as effective as possible. Moving around the classroom? Breaking into smaller groups?

  • Sounds like a great activity!

  • I think being 'under-ambitious' when designing a course and creating learning objectives is actually important. There is a tendency to cram too much material into the time available and the quality of the training session is compromised as a result. It's better to cover a few topics well than rush through lots of topics!

  • A knowledgeable, passionate and enthusiastic trainer can really make the difference!

  • I love that the trainers and trainees were so relaxed with each other. A positive learning environment like this allows the trainees to ask questions and explore the concepts freely. And also, as you say, networking is a really important part of training!

  • I agree that having such a heterogeneous is a challenge but having such a diverse range of knowledge and skills in the classroom must make for interesting discussions/ideas coming from the class!

  • I like the idea of drop-in sessions but I think it's important to have the questions submitted ahead of time, as you are doing. This helps the trainer gather the relevant resources/people to answer the question comprehensively!

  • I like the step of asking the trainees what they want to learn. I find this particularly useful for PhD student and postdoc groups as they are likely to have a project or task to which they want to apply their new knowledge.

  • The Living Doc is such a great tool and we have widely adopted it for all of our virtual workshops. Attention should also be paid to the access and longevity of these documents- how long do you want people to have continued access to the document?

  • I definitely agree. Also, depending on the activity, I think having a 'model' answer/dataset/sample that can be carried forward into the remainder of the activity is useful to allow participants to continue the work without being hampered by issues in the upstream process

  • I like that you've considered the inverse, Pia. I think this is why using Bloom's taxonomy when developing learning objectives is really useful. What level of skill does someone in a particular role/job need to achieve?

  • I don't think there is a golden rule, but making sure that you have an appropriate ratio between trainers and trainees (depending on topic, activity, class size, location, format) is important. Generally, more trainees means trainers are less able to deliver individual support

  • Integrating the theory and practical aspects of a course can also be a good way to 'break up' the sessions and motivate the trainees

  • Being able to respond to the learners during the training is a valuable skill and can take the form of formalised short feedback polls as the course progresses (also a good way to integrate interaction) but can also be judged less formally by 'reading the room'. Are people listening/engaging? Do the learners seem enthusiastic?

  • I like these ideas. When deciding on how to make materials available after the course, it's important to think about FAIR. Are they Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable? Using personal DropBox accounts could mean that links expire, for example. Are there any better places to put materials after the course?

  • I agree Saqlain - it's very easy to fall into comfortable habits and formats when teaching. These should always be re-evaluated and improved to meet evolving needs and challenges.

  • A hybrid workshop is a great format for reaching both in-person and virtual participants simultaneously. In my experience, it can be tricky for a trainer to devote equal time and attention to both in-person and virtual trainees. I think it can work, but needs very careful planning and organisation to ensure everyone is engaged.

  • Understanding the challenges for delivering training for a specific audience is important in being able to create realistic and achievable learning objectives. Providing pre-course material can be really useful to ensure that there is a similar starting point for all trainees.

  • I agree with this 100% and a great trainer will always be flexible in their approach and attempt to connect with trainees on a level that allows them to learn in their own way.

  • 18+ is a huge range as well! There could well be important generational differences with knowledge, exposure to different technologies and concepts

  • That's a great point. The ideas and concepts here are generalised and a trainer should always be empathetic to the different learning styles of individuals.

  • 100% - it is sometimes difficult to balance covering the 'latest and greatest' with the core concepts and background!

  • There are definitely teachers whose passion and enthusiasm have left a lasting impression on me! Discussions are such a useful tool for consolidating learning, though it is important to create a safe and positive environment where everyone feels that they can contribute.