Online bioinformatics education: An information systems approach to using stakeholder needs analysis for educational systems design heuristics
Bioinformatics has emerged as a field of study for analyzing and understanding complex data at the molecular level. Recent examples include the Human Genome Project, proteomic studies, and chronic disease research. The problem is a fundamental lack of systematic design to address the specific needs of students entering bioinformatics as an interdisciplinary program of study. Based upon a systems analysis that recognizes students as critical stakeholders, the research question probed students' perceptions, attitudes, and intentions to engage in an online, interdisciplinary bioinformatics program. The research design incorporated a mixed methods approach that included an online survey and personal interviews. Adapted from the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) Survey, the descriptive survey was distributed to students enrolled in two online academic units at Walden University. Statistical data analysis techniques included chi square, goodness of fit, t test, and axial coding of interview data for themes. The results reinforced the hypothesis that students view themselves as key stakeholders with strong preferences for online access to interdisciplinary programs in bioinformatics. Based upon these results, educational institutions looking to develop bioinformatics programs should actively engage students in the development of these programs and ensure the course work is immediately applicable and supportive of collaborative initiatives. From a positive social change perspective, the development of online, interdisciplinary bioinformatics programs could serve as a foundation for researchers to learn how to handle the vast amount of information emerging in this area, which may lead to new concepts in curing critical diseases such as cancer.