The Impact of Using Geographic Information Systems Technology on Students' Understanding of Epidemiology

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To enhance/update our microbiology course, we employed a geographic information science and technology (GIST) infusion to improve students' understanding of epidemiology and disease spread and to encourage students to earn a GIST certificate, making them more marketable in an increasingly competitive workplace. Following a 25-minute introductory GIST infusion lecture during a microbiology class session, a 1.5-hour GIST laboratory exercise was performed in which teams of students evaluated Centers for Disease Control (CDC) chlamydial disease incidence data. In addition to answering three quiz questions addressing the data, students created a map, using ArcGIS software, indicating which Texas counties experienced the highest rates of chlamydia in 2014. To determine the efficacy/value of our infusion, GIST survey data (pre- A nd post-infusion), GIST lab quiz scores, and answers to four GIST lecture exam questions were evaluated. In conclusion, our study was successful in improving understanding of what GIST is and how it could impact biological fields by improving attitudes about the likelihood of further GIST study leading to a certificate program, and by exposing biology undergraduates to GIST technologies and software, enabling student data mapping. Ultimately, our efforts could promote enhanced vocationalization of our biology program, thereby enhancing and broadening employment opportunities for our graduates.