Two CALS courses awarded Summer Term Special Initiatives funding

Two CALS courses have received course development funding through the Division of Continuing Studies’ Summer Term Special Initiatives program. Summer Term Special Initiatives grants provide funding and resources to departments to create courses that address high demand and student need, and enable faculty and staff to take advantage of new teaching methods and tools. In particular, these grants seek to support the creation of online courses that increase student flexibility and draw in new learners, as well as innovative courses which provide students with hands-on experiences and fill curriculum demands not currently met.

The two CALS courses which have been awarded funding are:

Plant Path 123:  Plants, Parasites, and People
Primary Instructor: Aurelie Rakotondrafara

This 3-credit course explores the interaction between society and plant-associated microbes around the globe. The major objective of this course is to teach students to think critically about today’s scientific issues that affect their lives, including food availability, ecology and the planet’s capacity to sustain the globe’s growing population. The course traditionally features discussions as well as hands-on experiments with live plants, insects and microbial cultures to learn and apply the scientific method.

Summer Term Special Initiatives funding will enable Rakotondrafara and Instructional Specialist Maya Hayslett to develop a fully online 8-week summer version of the course. In this version, they will lead the group discussions online and perform the scientific investigations without the lab setting, using a combination of online simulation labs; “beyond-the-classroom” experiences for students to collect and analyze their own data; analysis of scientific papers; and application of science to case studies.

Microbiology 525: Advanced Laboratory Practices – A Research Experience
Primary Instructor: Robin Kurtz

This new three-credit course in the Department of Bacteriology will be open to any student who has taken an introductory biology or microbiology laboratory prerequisite. Over the course of this intensive, eight-week summer lab course, students will learn a variety of advanced laboratory techniques and skills by performing a number of research experiments. One aspect of the course involves a group independent research project on the microbial ecology of a chosen environment using next-generation sequencing technology, bioinformatics analyses, along with traditional microbiological techniques.

This course is designed to help biology majors meet their requirement for a capstone course. While many fulfill this requirement by conducting research in a PI’s lab via an Independent Study 699 experience, not all biology majors can find such a position. Microbiology 525 will provide a viable alternative path for these individuals.