ISee : In Silico biology e-learning environment
To properly apply the pertinent methods to their sets of data, biologists need to understand the underlying algorithms. The Helix group is developing an e-learning environment (ISee : In Silico biology e-learning environment), which explains the principles of the main bioinformatics algorithms and illustrates their use on real data.
In its present state, the environment is structured into three main chapters : sequence comparison (dotplots and Needleman-Wunsch dynamic programming algorithm), statistical analysis of DNA sequences for the identification of coding regions, basic pattern matching algorithms including the use of regular expressions. This small set of algorithms is combined in a bacterial gene finding strategy. A preliminary chapter introduces the genetic code and the translation process.
The environment is first intended to be used in the « Ecole de l’ADN » ("DNA school") which is an initiative of the CCSTI (« Centre pour la Culture Scientifique, Technique et Industriel ») of Grenoble, in partnership with the Ecole de l’ADN in Nīmes, which created this concept. In this « Ecole », students from the last years of high school are invited to run biological experiments. Through the use of the learning environment, they will be introduced to « dry lab » experiments or « in silico » biology. An introductory course to bioinformatics has been specifically written, using the resources of the environment.
The user interface of a course is made up of two screens. On the first one, the user has access to hypertextual explanations of the required biological and computational notions. On the second one, the inner functioning of an algorithm is graphically explained at the required level of details.
ISee can be adapted and extended to be used at different levels of teaching. Other courses can be written along the same principles, relying on the resources of the environment. New algorithmic modules can be developed and integrated.