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Dr. Joe Rubin, associate professor in the WCVM Department of Veterinary Microbiology. Supplied photo.

Keeping microbiology education alive in midst of pandemic

A University of Saskatchewan (USask) veterinary microbiologist has co-authored two editorials in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology that highlight the challenges and opportunities of teaching and learning undergraduate microbiology courses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Joe Rubin, an associate professor in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology, is co-chair of the Canadian Society of Microbiologists’ Committee on Microbiology Undergraduate Education.

As universities across Canada and around the world adapt to new restrictions that limit the use of hands on labs and in-person instruction, Rubin and his fellow committee members thought this was the opportune time to affirm some core values in microbiology education and to offer support.

“In these editorials, our committee described some of the challenges faced by instructors in trying to deliver 'hands-on' lessons virtually,” says Rubin. He adds that the committee also wanted to emphasize the importance of reinstating hands on skills development in labs once it’s deemed safe and university course delivery can eventually return to normal.

 “We also suggest some creative alternatives that instructors could use to help their students continue learning about microbiology,” says Rubin. Using the time to work on aspects such as critical thinking in data analysis, experimental design in the lab and science communication skills are among the committee’s suggestions.

“Finding the silver lining during a global pandemic: opportunities for curriculum innovation in microbiology education” and “Keeping the microbiology lab alive: essential microbiology lab skill development in the wake of COVID-19” were published on the journal’s website in late July and early August. Full copies of both articles are available as PDFs.

Journal references:

Davis MC, Libertucci J, Guerrero YA, Dietz H, Noel TC, Rubin JE, Sukdeo N. “Finding the silver lining during a global pandemic: opportunities for curriculum innovation in microbiology education.” Canadian Journal of Microbiology. July 30, 2020 (published online). doi.org/10.1139/cjm-2020-0374.

Noel TC, Rubin JE, Guerrero YA, Davis MC, Dietz H, Libertucci J, Sukdeo N. “Keeping the microbiology lab alive: essential microbiology lab skill development in the wake of COVID-19.” Canadian Journal of Microbiology. Aug. 6. 2020 (published online). doi.org/10.1139/cjm-2020-0373.

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