5 Creative Ways to Teach Next Generation Sequencing That Make It Easier to Understand

Anjaney Kothari

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is a high-speed, ultra-high-throughput DNA/RNA sequencing technology that helps us analyze genetic variations, disease-causing or otherwise. Its applications are so vast and dynamic that a large number of professionals are expressing interest in learning this technique. Students planning on pursuing a field relying on genetics principles should also strengthen their understanding of this sequencing method.

But the lengthy protocols, complex reactions, and tedious data analysis that NGS requires can dampen people’s interest in learning it. Here, we list five ways to teach NGS that will make it easier to understand and implement for new learners.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

Many topics of study require the students to be able to play around with the subject matter on their own time to grasp it fully. Interactive models provide the students with this much-needed personalized experience that can make learning fun and intimate.

Consider using interactive models to teach NGS. For example, to train your students on the analysis of NGS data, provide them a random, pre-generated dataset. Guide them through the analysis, and ask them to come up with their own interpretations of the results. Since NGS involves a large number of steps from sample preparation to data analysis, you can even use a separate interactive model for each step. In fact, stepwise training could actually be more dependable when the subject matter is so multidimensional.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities can give the students a fun target to aim for, making learning a competitive but engaging process. This is why games and activities can play a vital role in teaching complex, multi-step procedures like NGS.

Consider Labster’s NGS simulation as an example. Here, students enter a CSI-like virtual world where they analyze DNA from an ancient strand of human hair. They perform single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis and predict the physical characteristics of the man the hair strand came from. By shedding light on traits like hairline and earwax thickness, the students will reconstruct the physical appearance of the man.

Man in a ditch with bones in NGS simulation.
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3. Infuse Technology into Lessons

A lot of teaching conventionally relies on textbooks, whiteboards, and markers, which can become dull and tedious at times. Technologies like simulation and virtual reality breathe life into written texts, transforming bookish protocols into practical, realistic experiences.

Take Labster’s NGS simulation, for example. Our simulation is an all-encompassing training session for students and professionals alike. Realistic 3D animations and simulations make this learning process a lot more exciting and fruitful. Learners get to take a deep dive into NGS steps like sample fragmentation, end repairing, A-tailing and PCR amplification. They also learn the sequencing reaction and data analysis methods, all in a fun and immersive way.

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

The complexity of NGS deters even interested beginners from giving the technique a chance. Therefore, knowing that NGS could significantly boost their career options (and earnings!) is a much-needed inspiration.

Tell your students how oncologists use NGS to detect multiple mutations in cancer cells using a single tumor sample. Talk about how geneticists find immense support in NGS in the areas of genomic analysis, disease diagnosis, and personalized medicine.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

It is easier to avoid learning complex topics when few real-world scenarios exist where they will be truly useful. NGS has a plethora of real-world applications that can change students’ minds about the need to learn this technique.

Talk to your students about the extensive use of NGS in the diagnosis and management of cancer patients. Tell them how whole genome sequencing using NGS can help in the diagnosis of rare genetic diseases. Sharing these real-world applications of NGS will encourage beginners to pursue learning this technique despite the challenges that accompany it.

Final thoughts

NGS is a game-changer in the field of DNA and RNA sequencing. It is not surprising that more and more people are now interested in learning this powerful technique. The five creative teaching methods we have discussed here can help you train students and beginners on using NGS to its fullest potential.

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