| 3D Amino Acids


A university undergraduate course on biochemistry was switching from a full in-person mode of instruction to more hybrid techniques. In doing so, hands-on learning activities would be restricted to laboratory processes. This meant that trickier theoretical aspects – such as the structure and properties of amino acids – would need consideration to ensure that their treatment was still engaging.


Both the teaching and assessment of these chemical structures required something accessible to all students while also not resorting to typical textbook process (e.g., reading and reciting). As immersive technologies become more common, this topic would also benefit from using three-dimensional interactions to permit a greater level of comprehension.


I developed teaching materials using models from Sketchfab, such as the one seen below, to allow students to see the structure of amino acids and modify their orientation in 3D. This was accessible through all devices including VR headsets. I also embedded these same models into Articulate Storyline assessment pieces to ensure both a level of consistency and greater opportunity for learners to use the available technology to give them the best chance at succeeding.

Use the following link to see a sample version of the Amino Acid assessment.


As previous in-class methods of being able to physically (de)construct amino acid models were unavailable, this interactive approach was approved highly by lecturers and well-received by students. Not only were students able to pass assessments, but their experience with the models allowed for greater awareness of why certain biochemical processes happen (e.g., through identifying precise locations on the amino acids of where chemical changes could occur).

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