Making the most of online learning tools to demystify mass spectrometry and make it more accessible to staff and students at the University of Sheffield.
The development of a Blackboard site for the Faculty of Science Mass Spectrometry Centre is a project that started in the Summer of 2018. The idea was to provide a space to users of the facility where they could complement what they learn practically in our laboratories with theory and exercises. This initiative, led by Dr Heather Walker and Dr Adelina E Acosta Martin, the two facility managers of the biOMICS Facility, aimed at putting together the content for a succinct but wide introduction to mass spectrometry and its application to the fields of metabolomics and proteomics. The two managers decided to build this site because they felt that while it is easy to access very detailed or specific information on the Internet, it is hard to find a general overview of mass spectrometry, with a clear structure that helps people to build their knowledge gradually.
I think that the Blackboard site will significantly enhance their understanding and make them more confident about what they do in the lab.
Adelina E Acosta Martin
biOMICS Facility manager
It was very important to us to make this easily accessible to as many people as possible.
biOMICS Facility manager
"Sometimes users come to the facility and they have absolutely no idea about mass spectrometry or proteomics, and they are scared of the technique. We try to make it easy for them in the lab but I think that the Blackboard site will significantly enhance their understanding and make them more confident about what they do in the lab. Also, many of our users are postgraduate students and they need to write about what they do and get ready to answer questions in their VIVAs, so having access to the site is extremely beneficial for them in these cases” Adelina explains.
The initial design of the site had different theoretical sections (Basics, Fundamentals, Metabolomics and Proteomics), quizzes, a discussion board, and a space for relevant literature. Populating the content of the theoretical sections has been challenging, particularly because there was often something with a higher priority in the to-do list of Adelina and Heather. However, people moving to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic offered them a great opportunity to push the development of the site and make it available to postgraduate students and postdocs who currently find themselves limited to carry out research and want to use this time to enhance their mass spectrometry knowledge. To maximise the potential of the site, the recordings and materials of our annual course have been added as well, becoming an all-in-one suite of mass spectrometry learning content.
Heather adds: “It was very important to us to make this easily accessible to as many people as possible. Not only during this current difficult time period but going forward in the future. It’s a great resource and something that people can continually refer to for a refresher, for clarification or to learn new things.”
Adelina, Lydia and Heather teleworking together from their homes during COVID-19 lockdown.
The site was released for self-enrolment this week and achieved more than 30 self-enrolled users in the first day of release. Self-enrolled users were from the Faculties of Science, Engineering and Medicine, Dentistry and Health. Although it is still under development, Heather and Adelina are very confident that this Blackboard site will be very useful to both those already using mass spectrometry as well as complete beginners across the university. The release of the site so soon after the lockdown has been possible, because of a collaborative work between Heather and Adelina, and the support of Lydia Kiesel who has taken ownership in developing the quizzes currently available.
... by developing quizzes for the site, I have increased my own knowledge in certain areas as well.
biOMICS Facility research technician
“Working on our Blackboard site in order to support our students and to provide them with the material to enhance their mass spectrometry knowledge has been a highly satisfying task for me. We wanted to make sure we can still have a positive impact on the education of those entrusted to us and I believe we have found an effective way to do that. Also, by developing quizzes for the site, I have increased my own knowledge in certain areas as well. It has been a win-win situation for me.”, so Lydia.
Instructions about how to access the Blackboard site can be found in the “Education” section of the Faculty of Science Mass Spectrometry Centre intranet site. Its development will continue through the following weeks and users with access will be notified about the release of new content.
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