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CBE Life Sci Educ. 2010 Fall;9(3):357-63. doi: 10.1187/cbe.10-03-0050.

Computer literacy for life sciences: helping the digital-era biology undergraduates face today's research.

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Department of Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Computer literacy plays a critical role in today's life sciences research. Without the ability to use computers to efficiently manipulate and analyze large amounts of data resulting from biological experiments and simulations, many of the pressing questions in the life sciences could not be answered. Today's undergraduates, despite the ubiquity of computers in their lives, seem to be largely unfamiliar with how computers are being used to pursue and answer such questions. This article describes an innovative undergraduate-level course, titled Computer Literacy for Life Sciences, that aims to teach students the basics of a computerized scientific research pursuit. The purpose of the course is for students to develop a hands-on working experience in using standard computer software tools as well as computer techniques and methodologies used in life sciences research. This paper provides a detailed description of the didactical tools and assessment methods used in and outside of the classroom as well as a discussion of the lessons learned during the first installment of the course taught at Emory University in fall semester 2009.

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