The Bioinformatics Project aims to help undergraduate and high school students gain a better understanding of genetics and molecular biology through the use of an intelligent tutoring system that will allow students to use bioinformatics tools. Bioinformatics is the scientific field that integrates biology, computer science, and information technology to answer biological questions. Bioinformatics includes the use of computational tools to study biological data, such as genetic sequences. By providing students with the opportunity to use these tools while they are also learning about the domain, we hope they will gain a deeper understanding of the underlying genetic concepts.
At LSRI we have been studying students’ understanding of critical genetic concepts prior to and following traditional instruction in college-level courses. Our emphasis has been on determining the areas where students struggle to understand the instructor's intention and how the bioinformatics tutor could be used to scaffold student learning and improve understanding. As prototypes of the tutor become available we are preparing to pilot the pairing with undergraduate students to gain further knowledge of their understanding of genetics, and to examine how the tutor might best allow students to gain deeper knowledge of key concepts.