Virtual biology: do we need the real thing?
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One of the debates within biology teaching is the appropriate use of animals and plants to enhance the learning experience. In particular significant amounts of time are often set aside within curricula for relevant practical experiences, including dissections, drawings, microscopy, experimentation and discussions with peers and staff. For many reasons, an increasing number, albeit a minority of students these days are disinclined to handle biological materials, whilst financial cutbacks are making the provision of them more difficult. This makes teaching the discipline in a practical way increasingly difficult. This paper discusses how first year biology students at The University of Sydney use a variety of virtual resources to provide a stimulating learning environment in an atmosphere of dwindling resources. We will recommend a mix of teaching opportunities, virtual and real, that might best support student learning in the 21st century.