Each module contains a virtual machine that provides the functional environment encountered when using such equipment in a laboratory. Exploration has the safety of a virtual platform and comfort of guided instruction. The use of real images enhances the experience and allows an element of discovery beyond the mechanistic. Modules contain text, interactive graphics, flowcharts and videos. These inform the site user about theory, sample preparation and practical skills necessary in order to enter the laboratory and start hands-on training on the equipment, or simply provide background knowledge for the student or manager who requires an introduction to a new technique.
At any time, module users can test their knowledge with the test function and gain a certificate when a high pass is achieved. Any incorrect answer is supplied with the correct response and a clickable tile that leads back into the site area in which that subject area is covered.
The project grew out of collective pressures on facilities such as University Centres and Units, and government laboratories in Australia. There was a growing demand for the techniques year by year (approximately 10%) but limited staff and specialist machine time available to cater for both research and training. Development of an online education tool meant that those new users coming into laboratories could be better prepared: familiar with language and theory specific to the research technique and experienced on a virtual machine.
Trainers report that use of MyScope reduces instruction time. User questionnaires and testing have demonstrated that the modules enhance core knowledge and are linked with positive attitudes towards online learning platforms.
The module approach caters to different needs. Facility managers and trainers are aware that clients and students arrive with different backgrounds and levels of knowledge. Modules can be tailored to requirements quickly, for those with a specific learning aim in mind: an interactive questionnaire allows the user to assess their knowledge, guide choices and tailor the learning environment. For educators, a drag and drop function allows creation of a personalized, new site, restructured and edited specifically for their class needs. MyScopeTM modules provide an accelerated learning environment designed to get the student or researcher up to speed and producing meaningful results faster.
At inception, the project involved six universities in Australia, and recognized the important contribution by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore in the form of initial online tools. Funding was supplied by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching and the six universities with additional and ongoing support from the AMMRF.
As a result of the networking strengths of the AMMRF a further nine institutions became involved and together the 15 institutions formed a resource base for developing the materials. Modules were made available in 2012. Since that time use has continued to grow, currently it has more than 15,000 users per month and is international in scope.
While the initial aim was to support institutions for postgraduate and research needs, significant growth has occurred in undergraduate teaching. The future focus is to continue updating current materials and to develop new modules on additional advanced research techniques.