Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

The Virtual Genetics Lab II: Improvements to a Freely Available Software Simulation of Genetics

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

The Virtual Genetics Lab II: Improvements to a Freely Available Software Simulation of Genetics

Article excerpt

A student begins by selecting from one of several Problem Files assigned by their instructor. The software then randomly generates a problem by choosing from the models allowed in the Problem File and instantiating the model by choosing from a large set of traits and characters. The student's task is to determine the genetic mechanism underlying the inheritance of these traits by choosing insects for crossing and observing the resultant offspring. The process of solving these problems includes two elements that are typically not present in pencil-and-paper genetics problems: choosing which individuals to cross and determining whether a cross produces useful information or not. A sample problem session is shown in Figure 1.

Because each problem is generated randomly, each is different, thus allowing an almost limitless opportunity for practice. Furthermore, genetic models can include autosomal or sex-linked (XX/XY or ZZ/ZW) genes, and many alleleic interactions (simple, incomplete, circular, and hierarchical dominance). VGLII includes the following improvements:

* Multiple genes. Problems can include one to three genes. These genes can be linked; genes can also interact via epistasis or complementation.

* Internationalization. All text can be displayed in English, Spanish, or French.

* Model Builder. To help students scaffold their work, they can enter parts of their developing genetic model into the Model Builder (see Figure 2). …

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