We explored this teaching model with 400 students from Dalian Medical University as samples. Founded in 1947, Dalian Medical University（DMU）is a pilot university of China’s National "Excellent Doctor Education and Training Program" project, aiming to cultivate outstanding medical talents with equal emphasis on both clinical and scientific research. It encompasses 23 teaching and scientific research units, 27 affiliated hospitals, 23 undergraduate programs, 4 post-doctoral research stations, 4 first-level doctoral programs, one professional doctoral program, 11 first-level master's programs and 6 professional master's programs. The university has more than 9,000 faculty and medical personnel, and 13,300 full-time students, including 4,900 postgraduates, 7,500 undergraduates and 900 international students. Dalian Medical University has been a well-known medical college in Northeast of China.
This article is focused on examining the effectiveness of the "online + offline" blended teaching model in the experimental course-apoptosis series of teaching, which is taken by undergraduates in their second year in DMU. In this experimental classroom, a total of 400 students participated in this experimental study. They came from clinical medicine, preventive medicine, nursing and other related medical specialties. Prior to this innovative learning, they had neither laboratory operation experience nor any exposure to relevant professional training.
In this study, the topic area contains key biochemistry and molecular techniques that are widely used in biological and clinical laboratory contexts such as apoptosis sections, including Immunocytochemistry (ICC) Assay、q-PCR analysis and western Blot techniques. Besides, the statistical analysis is also a key point for undergraduate students to master. These selected experimental components help students understand and verify the technical theories they need to learn, through which they are provided with opportunities for scientific and laboratory practice.
The Virtual Simulation Teaching Experiment Center in DMU
The Ministry of Education of China established the "Virtual Simulation Teaching Experiment Center" in 2013, which vigorously promoted the development of practical teaching. In case of the impact of corona virus, DMU proposed an open virtual simulation experiment teaching management platform in 2019. This platform is supported by Beijing Rainier Network Technology Co. Ltd, which is a professional provider of virtual simulation experimental teaching solutions with the leading technology in China. It is one of the first companies in China to provide an interactive learning environment of "Internet + virtual reality + education". It also provides development services for more than 700 universities all over the country, rendering essential technical support for the reform and innovation of experimental teaching in Chinese higher education. When using the platform, students can easily connect to the open learning resources (http://icim.dmu.rofall.net/virexp/ffzy) with their student’s ID, regardless of time and location . The learning resources for each topic area contain a teaching video resource as well as several related interactive practical exercises, with which students may have easy access to the websites. Within the teaching area of Innovative Experimental Course-Apoptosis, there are currently several practical training sessions. Also, the use of virtual slides is found to be a useful way for interpreting findings in textbooks [12-14].
Teaching Strategies in Apoptosis sections
In order to demonstrate the advantages of this teaching mode, we chose the most representative cell apoptosis experiment as the main teaching content. Apoptosis is the most common process of programmed cell death that can be triggered by multiple chemical and biological factors. This concept is of great importance to a wide of range of disciplines including biology, physiology, toxicology and medicine. The experimental session of this curriculum has the overall aim of training students to handle the principles of apoptosis as well as the operating processes of a series of techniques, which include Immunocytochemistry (ICC) Assay、q-PCR analysis and western blot . We will evaluate students' mastery of the experimental content and ability of operation under this teaching mode through various evaluation indicators. It is significant to note that before this laboratory experimental class, the students neither received laboratory-based training nor operational experiences. They are not as a result familiar with basic experimental instruments, and the majority of them are unfamiliar as a result with the use of a pipette, centrifuge machine, spectrophotometer, and electrophoresis apparatus. In order to achieve the learning outcomes in this area, a series of teaching methods were employed online, such as literature reading, experimental demonstrations, small group teaching, and discussion sessions, in all of which the students are free to ask questions. The detailed process of this mode is shown as follows in Fig.1.
Online Preview learning
The first part is completely online based on the website, mainly including the following three steps: self-learning (video course), online simulation experiment and summaries of difficult problems. During the process, students are provided with the learning resources that include the principal and practical protocols, as well as the instructional videos on the platform. In addition, they can download them and print out and repeatedly read them. After previewing and understanding the relevant content by themselves, the students can frequently conduct model experiments on the platform, find the possible problems in the experiment, record and upload them on the platform. Then they may try to solve those problem in the subsequent study.
They are also required to complete such pre-class activities as searching several set questions based on the experimental laboratory activities and the theoretical principles, as well as other related learning goals for the upcoming class. It is regarded as an important activity, as the pre-class assignments not only deliver teaching material to students but also enable students to focus their attention on areas that could be potentially difficult for them. This had the net effects of producing richer in-class discussions, with the online system providing the major means of content delivery.
After performing the above operations, teachers will guide students to complete the experiment operation and answer the relevant questions in person. Students conduct the experiment in groups with the help of teachers. After the experiment, according to the relevant content of the group discussion, the experimental operation report is written and uploaded on the virtual platform.
Online Review learning
The last part of the content is also completed online, including group report, mutual evaluation of experimental report and summary. We will organize each group to make a PowerPoint presentation based on their own experimental results. Each experimental group can ask and answer questions individually. Finally, the teacher will make a summary according to the experimental operation performance and evaluate the quality of the experimental report.