TeachEnG: aTeachingEngine forGenomics

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Abstract

Motivation

Bioinformatics is a rapidly growing field that has emerged from the synergy of computer science, statistics and biology. Given the interdisciplinary nature of bioinformatics, many students from diverse fields struggle with grasping bioinformatic concepts only from classroom lectures. Interactive tools for helping students reinforce their learning would be thus desirable. Here, we present an interactive online educational tool called TeachEnG (acronym for Teaching Engine for Genomics) for reinforcing key concepts in sequence alignment and phylogenetic tree reconstruction. Our instructional games allow students to align sequences by hand, fill out the dynamic programming matrix in the Needleman-Wunsch global sequence alignment algorithm, and reconstruct phylogenetic trees via the maximum parsimony, Unweighted Pair Group Method with Arithmetic mean (UPGMA) and Neighbor-Joining algorithms. With an easily accessible interface and instant visual feedback, TeachEnG will help promote active learning in bioinformatics.

Availability and implementation

TeachEnG is freely available at http://teacheng.illinois.edu. The source code is available from https://github.com/KnowEnG/TeachEnG under the Artistic License 2.0. It is written in JavaScript and compatible with Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Microsoft Edge.

Contact

songj@illinois.edu

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