On the convenience of using a computer simulation to teach enzyme kinetics to undergraduate students with biological chemistry-related curricula

Authors

  • Javier González-Cruz,

    1. Departament of Special Programmes, Facultad de Química, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 04510 México DF, México
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  • Rogelio Rodríguez-Sotres,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, Facultad de Química, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 04510 México DF, México
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  • Mireya Rodríguez-Penagos

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biochemistry, Facultad de Química, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 04510 México DF, México
    • Departament of Special Programmes, Facultad de Química, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 04510 México DF, México
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Abstract

Enzyme kinetics is a difficult subject for students to learn and for tutors to teach. During the practicals included in the biochemical courses at the Faculty of Chemistry of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, we found that the students acquire good training in the calculations to obtain kinetic parameters such as Km, Vmax, optimum pH, etc., but, when they are questioned about the significance of the values and their relationship to enzyme catalysis, many confusing ideas arise. To provide extended practice opportunities that could aid in the learning process we developed computer software that simulates an enzyme assay for lactate dehydrogenase, named enzsimil, that was used as well as the practical sessions. We tested three different levels of guidance to work with enzsimil, scripts where the students had to follow detailed (guided), intermediate (semiguided), or minimal (unguided) instructions, and for comparison, one group had a session of solving problems in class extracted from the program (class), and one more group had no additional sessions (control). After their respective sessions, the students either wrote a report or completed their script and undertook a laboratory practical. At the end, an exam was applied to all students. The reports and exams were graded, and the performance of the experimental groups was subjected to a statistical analysis. In addition, we carefully read the answers trying to identify the more common errors and misconceptions. The study revealed that there are statistically significant benefits in the use of the program. The semiguided scheme was more convenient to help the student in the short term for the preparation of better reports, while in the long term, both the semiguided and unguided groups performed equally well. These results are discussed in terms of the convenience of guided or unguided teaching strategies in computer-assisted learning.

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