Visiting: Prof. Patsie Polly

Prof. Patsie Polly, Education Focussed Academic in the Department of Pathology within the School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, AU. We appreciated the opportunity to welcome Prof. Patsie Polly from the 19th to 29th of November 2018 at our institute. Her efforts in elevating education from upfront classroom teaching to interactive cloud-based virtual labs have long passed local attention and moved on to redefine our idea of modern teaching at a global scale. In her talk, being part of the CBI colloquium on the 29th of November 2018, she clarified the benefits of enhancing student engagement by approaching their learning from a different angle than face-to-face. Emphasis was put on a stronger connection between student and research topic, but also lecturers, to make them grow beyond themselves and contribute to the university’s excellence by returning as capable and interested undergrad- or grad-students. The digital age has paved the road for new approaches in education that transfers the complexity of fascinating, cutting-edge research into understandable and exciting practical lessons in the form of virtual labs. These enable a new level of learning techniques in an in-silico environment that provides resource saving, allowing for mistakes and repetition before entering the real lab scenario, in which mistakes are often connected with substantial financial losses. This fear often limits students in their encouragement and consequently in their learning performance. At present, the growing number of virtual labs overcome this burden and verifiably build up the confidence of young researchers driving them to perform better in the real-world situation. Moreover, in contrast to the real lab situation, the virtual lab scenario can be repeated multiple times, and at any time to refresh knowledge in an interactive, personalized way. These types of practical virtual lab courses will not replace lecturers or actual labs, but increase the degree of self-reflection to improve the current design of teaching per se. In-built analytics anonymously track progress and pin point to stages in the learning process where progress may be impeded and requires the attention of the lecturer to re-think teaching approaches. In the future, the introduction of a badging/micro-credentialing system will further increase motivation and allow for a better tracking of learning progress, which at some point may even be reflected as part of a CV.