Friday, November 23, 2012

Recording videos for Coursera - the technology

We (me and the guys of the Centre for Teaching and Learning Technology) have started working out the best conditions for recording all the lecture videos. We have a lot of factors to consider - for most of these Coursera provides detailed advice, which we're modifying to suit our circumstances.  This is all very new to me, so what I've written below will probably sound very naive to anyone with video experience.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Planning the Useful Genetics weekly modules

Part 1.  Genotype and phenotype

We should have one learning objective for each video (one video for each learning objective)

1.  How much humans are the same genetically, and how much we differ.  DNA, genes, chromosomes and genomes are all both physical entities and informational entities.  One video for each of these (with usages and representations)?.  Ploidy and the basic cycle of sexual reproduction. Populations, races and out of Africa. SNPs?

2.  How DNA molecules become different. Comparing DNA sequences.  Polymerases.  Mutations happen and are passed on to the next generation.  DNA repair.  Mutation rates and frequencies.  70 new point mutations in each baby, most from Daddy.  Do we need to worry about mutagens (yes for cancer, no for babies)?  Start considering how DNA differences affect what genes do (this will also teach more about genes).  Genes and proteins - what proteins do.  The genetic code.

3.  Lots about how DNA differences (mutations and polymorphisms) affect proteins and protein functions (or not).  Heterozygosity issues.  'Mendelian' and 'quantitative' effects (not these terms). Chromosome differences, aneuploidies.  Gene families.  Homologous genes in other species let us use animals as 'models' for human diseases.

4.  Predicting phenotypes from genotypes.  Sex chromosomes, X inactivation.   Genes and cancer.  Thinking about risks and probabilities.  Genes and behaviour.

5.  Personal genomics.  What can we know (will we be able to know) about our genotypes?  Gene-typing.  SNP-typing.  Exome sequencing.  Genome sequencing.  Transgenic organisms.  Genetic modifications (GMOs). Gene therapy.  Forensic DNA identification. 

Part 2.  Inheritance

6.  Can I start with something catchy?  The mechanics of inheritance.  DNA structure again.  Chromosome structure again.  Mitosis: the problem and the solution.  Meiosis uses this solution but now problem with new solution.  Mating"  gametes don't know their genotypes, random encounters.  Following genotypes through.  Physical molecules and information again.

7.  Consequences of the mechanism of inheritance.  Almost all variation was present in a parent.  Probabilities.  Interacting with risks and with other genes.  Errors in the mechanism (cause translocations, aneuploidies etc.)

8.  Linked genes, genetic maps, sex-linked inheritance. Chromosome rearrangements and fertility.  Paternity and relationship testing.  Inbreeding/selfing.

9.  Heritability.  Twin studies.  Environment and chance play big roles.  The 'missing heritability': contributions of gene interactions.  GWAS. 

10.   Epigenetics.  Mitochondrial genes.  Mosaicism.  Fetal DNA in mothers.  Other cool stuff we can now understand.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Seriously beginning to prepare for Useful Genetics

My Useful Genetics MOOC now has more than 8000 students signed up.  It won't be offered until May (6 months form now), but there's so much preparation that I'm already in danger of panic unless I get things under way now.  Last week I meet with the CTLT (Centre for Teaching and Learning Technology) team, and then with the instructional designer specifically working on my course.