Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 6 - 2012

Ingmar Riedel-Kruse, Bioengineering
Paulo Blikstein, Education

We are currently witnessing a variety of initiatives in online education such as Khan Academy, Udacity, and Coursera. Online education initiatives have the potential to deliver self-paced educational content at low cost to any internet-enabled device in the world including underserved communities. But none of these initiatives permit hands-on lab work and experimentation, which, as research has shown, is essential for most disciplines in the natural sciences and engineering fields. Profs. Ingmar Riedel-Kruse (Bioengineering) and Paulo Blikstein (Education and Computer Science) propose to develop and test a scalable and cost-effective online experimentation platform, where large numbers of remote users can carry out biology experiments in parallel at low cost. This platform will then be integrated into biology online classes followed by user studies to unravel the design principles for online lab classes with respect to optimal learning. This project aims to solve the engineering and methodological challenges for effective online wet-lab biology education, thereby enabling future large-scale adoption with a significant impact on worldwide children and adult education.