McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Mysteries of DNA explained in McMaster's Massive Online Open Course

Published: March 6, 2018
Caitlin Mullarkey and Felicia Vulcu from the Faculty of Health Sciences are the instructors of a public course called DNA Decoded.
Caitlin Mullarkey and Felicia Vulcu from the Faculty of Health Sciences are the instructors of a public course called DNA Decoded.

The public conversation is loaded with references to DNA through news and drama featuring criminal investigations, home-testing kits that tell us about our health and ancestry, and new advances in science.

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It's the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms, yet many people don't know much about it at all.

Two biochemists of the Faculty of Health Sciences are working to put those mysteries to bed through a new public course, called DNA Decoded, which is available to everyone.

Felicia Vulcu, an assistant professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences, and Caitlin Mullarkey, an assistant professor for the Bachelor of Health Sciences program, have set a Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC.

The MOOC was created by McMaster's Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching. The institute provides leadership in teaching and learning at McMaster and beyond to strengthen and enrich the university's reputation as a national and global leader in the field by using innovative, evidence-based approaches.

In the course, the biochemists explain what DNA is, how it works, and why it's so significant, introducing students to the techniques scientists use to analyze genetic risks, to manipulate DNA, and to develop new treatments for diseases.

The course takes students into a virtual lab to perform their own forensic analysis of DNA samples from a murder scene.

DNA Decoded is offered via Coursera, a California-based, education-focused technology company that offers online courses to the more than 30 million users on its platform.

The course uses gamification elements from Labster to stimulate students' curiosity and facilitate learning.

New sessions of the four-week course start every two weeks.

For more information or to enrol, visit https://www.coursera.org/learn/dna-decoded.

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