Providing support for groups planning to develop new bioinformatics degree programs

    African Bioinformatics Education Committee

    The African Bioinformatics Education Committee (ABEC) originated from an H3ABioNet Degree Development Workshop held in Gaborone, Botswana in March 2014. It was established to provide a support vehicle for groups planning to develop new bioinformatics degree programs.

    The role of the committee is to:
    • Provide general advise on setting up and monitoring bioinformatics degree programs
    • Provide materials such as teaching methods, course materials, administrative forms, etc.
    • Organise a train-the-trainer program to develop a cadre or bioinformatics trainers
    • Provide a mechanism for monitoring quality of courses and assessing relevance of projects
    • Facilitate cross-talk between programs and institutions
    • Identify current trends in bioinformatics education
    • Link with GOBLET, ISCB and other education initiatives
    • Create a directory of programs and trainers (possibly with assessment)
    • Create a directory of possible supervisors and their areas of expertise
    • Create a tracking mechanism to see how long it takes for a University to put together their curriculum submission proposal, have their degree programme accepted and factors which enable the successful acceptance of a degree programme by their institute

    Bioinformatics Curriculum

    The Degree Development Workshop proposed a set of core and elective modules that should be incorporated into a degree program in bioinformatics by coursework and dissertation. The Curriculum Development Task Force, established in response to the Degree Development Workshop, has since developed the proposed content for each module. This task force has worked with the ISCB Education Committee Curriculum Development task force in developing the competencies associated with the curriculum content.
    The module outlines, as well as a set of guidelines for setting up a bioinformatics degree program with limited resources, may be viewed here.
    For more information please contact:

    Key Steps for Starting a Degree Program

    Summary of Key Steps for Starting a Degree Program:
    An important consideration when starting a degree program is to engage with an Institution’s academic development and review unit from the outset as they will provide invaluable assistance when creating an academic program to be reviewed by the institutional management.

    1. Determine university requirements for degree programs
    2. Create awareness of bioinformatics at the university
    3. Survey students? Determine their desired outcomes
    4. Engage extensively with all stakeholders possible to determine if one is not duplicating modules offered by other faculties
    5. Put together degree structure and have the content reviewed by external experts
    6. Determine whether you have the resources –trainers, supervisors, IT facilities or approach other universities to share resources
    7. Train your faculty
    8. Propose degree to university via a curriculum submission. Await outcome of the results of the curriculum submission from University management structures to assess if the curriculum is successfully accepted or further work needs to be done

    See additional logistics guidelines here
    Key issues to consider:

    1. Need and sustainability: does the programme address issues of: Socio-economic needs of the country, Employment/self-employment, Programme currently available institution or others nearby, Student enrolment for at least first four intakes, Market research by the department
    2. Alignment with the vision, mission, values and strategic plan of University: How does the programme support the university’s vision, mission, values, strategic plan priority areas and equivalence of experience of all learners?
    3. Programme design factors: these include the rationale for the programme, other programmes already being offered, consultation with other departments, career opportunities and professional accreditation bodies
    4. Utilising existing centers of Excellence: leveraging of existing centers of excellence and specialisation of an Institution to tailor the degree programme synergistically with those existing expertise
    5. Learning, teaching and assessment strategy: details on the learning and teaching strategy, teaching methods, mode of delivery and materials development, academic support initiatives, monitoring student progress, evaluating programme impact and improvement, maintaining the quality of teaching and learning
    6. Student recruitment, admission and selection: specify the admission requirements, selection criteria, recognition of prior learning, widening access and participation, and enrolment / student recruitment plan
    7. Staff recruitment: the availability of Universities to identify and attract high calibre trainers to provide training for the degree modules offered or retraining of existing staff members
    8. Prior Approval of the programme: the academic programme must be approved by the University’s governing structures at least one year prior to the first intake of students  to this programme and should be factored into the timeline when establishing an academic degree programme
    Directory of online bioinformatics courses
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