This project is about many things, but mainly it’s about how we make practical bioscience more appealing and relevant to students. We know that to achieve this we need to improve the quality of the content we deliver as well as how we deliver it. It’s noticeable that student practical schedules tend to be full of words at the expense of pictures, yet if you talk to any scientist - or mathematician or engineer - they will tell you being able to visualise a problem is key to understanding it.
We have noticed that although the printed documentation students receive is light on graphics, in the lab staff are constantly using sketchs to illustrate a point. So why are these sketches not in the handouts? The answer is almost certainly that academics don’t want to be judged by their artistic ability - although they don’t mind flashing a sketch to students on a slide or back of an envelope, going into print with something that looks like it was drawn by a five year old is not something they are prepared to do, even if the picture perfectly illustrates the point.
You could argue that STEM faculties need resident artists to turn academics' sketches into professional products, and in fact some institutions already have someone like this, but these people are few and far between and the squeeze on funding means they are not likely to become more common.
One of the great things about the eBiolabs project is that we have the full support of the University and we have raised additional funding to allow us to create professional-looking graphics. We have been able to use this to develop content that we think looks great and will instill confidence in learners. Here’s a couple of screen shots of the kind of thing we are doing:
Here's a screenshot from the techniques manual:
And here's a screenshot from a spectroscopy practical: