Masters Thesis

Exploring the impact of a variant curation module in the undergraduate classroom

Rapid advancements in DNA sequencing technology have drastically increased the accessibility of genetic testing, generating vast amounts of genomic data that require clinical interpretation. The increasing demand for clinical genetics services has outpaced the growth of the genetics workforce. Developing creative approaches to genetics education could be an effective strategy to stimulate greater student interest in genetics careers. This study explored how incorporating a variant curation module into undergraduate coursework, as a form of context-based active learning, would impact students’ understanding of genetic concepts, their interest in pursuing a genetics career, and their overall learning experience. A total of 73 participants were recruited from two undergraduate courses – Bioinformatics Applications (BA) and Principles of Genetics (PG) – at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Participants were asked to complete a pre- and post-survey before and after the module. Both classes had a higher average score on the post-survey than on the pre-survey when answering five genetic concept questions, and this difference was statistically significant in the PG class, ​t​ (25) = 3.00, ​p​ = .006. The majority of students in both classes reported that the module reinforced their knowledge of relevant genetic concepts and increased their understanding of the clinical implications of variants. Thematic analysis of participant responses highlighted areas for improvement when conducting a variant curation module in the undergraduate setting. The results suggest that this module may need to be modified when implemented with students in an introductory genetics course. The module had multiple benefits on students’ learning experience, with the majority of students reporting an increase in their interest in genetics and several students expressing appreciation for the clinical applications, interactive nature, and critical thinking involved in this exercise. The results of this study demonstrate how incorporating a variant curation module into undergraduate coursework as a context-based active learning exercise has the potential to improve student understanding of genetic concepts and increase interest in genetics. Genetics educators who are interested in incorporating a variant curation module into their coursework may benefit from the recommendations made through this study