The future of digital science education

The future of digital science education

Gone are the days of sketching out cells on paper - modern scientific research uses cutting-edge tech, and science education is doing the same, according to an RMIT expert.

Technology and the modern classroom experience are becoming increasingly inseparable, and science education is no exception - learners today need digital literacy skills to be successful in and out of the classroom.

Bioscience lecturer Associate Professor Donald Wlodkowic is leading a transformation of the University’s labs to give students access to the very best in technology.

He shares his insights on the project. 

L-R: Associate Professor Donald Wlodkowic with postgraduate student Shalika Mehra.

Why is it important for bioscience students to have access to digital tools?

There is increasing global digitalisation in the healthcare, biomedical and bioscience industry sectors.

Industry is moving very fast and using the latest digital technologies available, which has proven transformational for the life sciences.

But a lot of bioscience teaching has traditionally relied on analogue methods.

Students need to have access to those same tools used by researchers and health professionals, so they are experienced when they move into the lab later in their careers and hit the ground running in finding solutions to biomedical problems.

You just launched an initiative to give bioscience students at RMIT access to the latest industry-standard technology. What does this involve?

The first phase of this project kicked off just in time for the new semester, with the rollout of 22 EVOS M5000 digital microscopes, in collaboration with life sciences company Thermo Fisher.

This type of microscope is used by high-calibre research facilities and features a portable benchtop design with an integrated computer, large digital screen and cloud networking capabilities.

They are very easy to use and allow the researchers to work faster, so they can focus their efforts on scientific discoveries rather than technical aspects of microscopy.

Students have access to the microscopes in classrooms across the Melbourne City and Bundoora campuses.

We’ve also got systems dedicated for research and collaboration as well as for our postgraduate students.

The EVOS M5000 features a portable benchtop design with an integrated computer, large digital screen and cloud networking capabilities..

What benefits do the EVOS M5000 microscopes deliver to students?

Having access to microscopes that are used by industry labs means students are learning hands-on with technology that’s equipping them for the future.

Students will not only gain a better understanding of science by seeing relevant specimens clearly on digital screens and being able to discuss in real time and view real samples, enhancing not only their biological learning but their scientific mindset.

The advanced nature of these tools allows experimentation in areas that were previously unattainable, such as fluorescence and time-lapse imaging, which are relatively untouched areas in undergraduate teaching.

Where can a bioscience degree and the associated digital skills take students?

Developing creativity, collaboration and practical problem-solving skills is critical to preparing students for the modern biomedical workforce.

With these future-ready skills, bioscience graduates will find opportunities across the bioscience, biotechnology, biopharma and drug discovery industries, as well as universities and clinical labs – anything from tech roles to senior research and development and academic positions.

Hands-on experience with industry technology means students are being equipped for the future.

What other exciting projects do you have coming up?

We are always planning and implementing new ways to bring transformative digital experiences into teaching, to build on a learning environment that is inspiring, inclusive and collaborative.

There are plans to bring next-generation DNA sequencing technologies to a significant proportion of bioscience courses at RMIT.

These new digital tools are simple, rapid and portable, and will offer an opportunity to expose and train students to state-of-the-art practice and provide problem-guided and collaborative learning.


Donald Wlodkowic is Associate Professor in Cell Biology and Neurobiology. He leads the Phenomics Laboratory at the School of Science (Biosciences) at RMIT. His current research interests encompass behavioural and cognitive neuroscience, neurobiology, behavioural toxicology and neurotoxicology, with a particular emphasis on chemical modulation of innate behavioural and cognitive (learning and memory retrieval) functions.

Story: Jasmijn van Houten

12 August 2019


12 August 2019


  • Science and technology
  • Student experience

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