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A Hands-on Distance Learning Strategy to Increase Access to Bioinformatics Training.
PURPOSE: There is great demand for bioinformatics training in the research community, but a shortage of expert trainers. High costs often impede providing training on-site. Methods were devised, tested, and used to deliver hands-on bioinformatics training at a distance that emulates in-person training at an on-site computer lab.
DESIGN METHODS: A hands-on bioinformatics training program offered at NIH was provided at a distance. The instructor communicates with students via videoconference while using desktop sharing software to show slides, live molecular visualizations and web resources for searching and analyzing genome information. Similar desktop sharing software is used on student computers at distant computer labs, enabling the instructor to observe and provide remote, interactive assistance to individual students during hands-on exercises.
RESULTS: Six academic health centers participated in the virtual bioinformatics training program in 2010/2011, including two minority institutions. Remote instruction was provided to individual sites and to multiple sites simultaneously. Participants' evaluations of the program were positive. There continues to be more demand for courses than can be accommodated.
CONCLUSION: One way to meet the need for hands-on researcher training in bioinformatics is to offer instruction remotely using videoconferencing and desktop sharing software to recreate a computing laboratory environment virtually. Software can be configured to accommodate the computational requirements of the information resources and meet security requirements. The program instructor, IT support staff and site coordinator must work together to ensure that the training is effective.