As new molecular assays are developed in research laboratories and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for clinical use, molecular diagnostics becomes an integral discipline of clinical laboratory science. Since 2001, guidelines of the National Accreditation Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS) have required that CLS Educational Programs incorporate molecular diagnostics into the curriculum.
In fall of 2005, CLS faculty/researchers, affiliated with a baccalaureate program in an academic medical university, incorporated molecular diagnostic lecture content with online virtual laboratories into the Clinical Chemistry course. Then beginning in fall of 2006, manual performance of molecular laboratory exercises was introduced.
The aim of this study was to assess whether inclusion of hands-on molecular laboratories improved student outcomes on molecular questions during the final course examination.
CLS faculty evaluated student learning by written examination of lecture and laboratory content. Researchers performed two-sample t-tests to establish if significant differences existed in molecular questions scores achieved by students exposed to virtual and hands-on exercises.
The researchers found a statistically significant difference in examination performance between the students that had a hands-on experience and students with virtual laboratory experience only. Further data analysis suggested that hands-on experiential laboratories had the greatest effect on students who performed in the middle percentiles.
The researchers proposed that in order to improve examination scores of the weakly performing students other interventions may be necessary such as more lecture or laboratory time. This prompted development of a full time clinical molecular methods course, separate from Clinical Chemistry.