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Invited Symposium: Virtual Labs and Real Scientists: Can Virtual Labs Produce Real Scientists?






Abstract

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Discussion
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Commentary: Third World Scientist And The Virtual Lab


Contact Person: Anthony B Ebeigbe (ebeigbe@infoweb.abs.net)


Is it necessary?

Note:The virtual laboratory for the purpose of this write-up, is one which though does not exist in reality with respect to complex equipment set-up but exists in effect as it provides enough experimental material in simulation. It is therefore a useful functional tool for students.

At this stage of the evolution of biomedical and science education in the third world is the virtual laboratory necessary? In the 1960s and seventies secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria for example was very much modelled after patterns in the United Kingdom and, in some instances, the United States. Laboratories in Nigerian secondary schools and Universities were equipped with well-trained local and expatriates staff.

In each Universities for example a congenial atmosphere was created in terms of manpower, equipment and public utilities like regular electricity, light and water supply to certain functional laboratories.

Student populations were low and staffing was adequate. The 1980ís and 1990ís have witnessed a rapid growth in student populations in the face of a fall in academic staff population and a sharp decline in serviceable laboratory equipment.

Table one shows data obtained from a Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology over a fifteen-year period. It shows the academic staff : student ratio rising from the already rather high ratio of 1 staff to 52 students to 1 to 164, and improving slightly and then rising to 1:137. Using the number of functional chart recorders as an index of useful equipment, the trend shows a decline from one recorder to 26 students to 1 to 687 and unless some aid is forthcoming the situation may end at zero recorder. A physical hands-on practical demonstration of an experiment to 687 students is not possible and groups of fifty students twice a week means that demonstration experiments will take a minimum of seven weeks to go round if a chart recorder is needed. Also limited is laboratory space. Laboratories originally meant for a maximum number of fifty students now have, on occasion, 300 or more students - depending on the subject. Other limitations to successful conduct of live practical experiments are frequent and unexpected electrical power failures, and lack of water supply.

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Table 1

Academic Year Number of students (Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry) taking Pharmacology Number of Academic Staff Staff : Student Ratio Number of Chart Recorders Number of Students Per Chart Recorder

1983/84

417

8

1:52

16

26

1984/85

415

7

1:59

16

26

1985/86

420

7

1:60

13

32

1986/87

464

6

1:77

13

36

1987/88

481

3

1:160

12

40

1988/89

492

3

1:164

10

49

1989/90

583

4

1:146

9

65

1990/91

602

6

1:100

8

75

1991/92

593

6

1:98

5

119

1992/93

589

5

1:118

5

118

1993/94

635

5

1:127

5

127

1994/95

620

4

1:155

4

155

1995/96

655

5

1:131

4

164

1996/97

673

5

1:135

3

224

1997/98

687

5

1:137

1

687

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Ebeigbe, A.B.; Omogbai, E.K.I.; (1998). Commentary: Third World Scientist And The Virtual Lab. Presented at INABIS '98 - 5th Internet World Congress on Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University, Canada, Dec 7-16th. Invited Symposium. Available at URL http://www.mcmaster.ca/inabis98/rangachariedu/ebeigbe0480/index.html
© 1998 Author(s) Hold Copyright