An online bioinformatics training method delivering practical and tailored workshops to distant trainees

Dr Christina Hall1, Ms Ann Backhaus3, Dr Marco de la Pierre3, Dr  Jeffrey  Christiansen2, Associate Professor Andrew  Lonie1

1Australian BioCommons, University of Melbourne
2Australian BioCommons, University of Queensland
3Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

As part of our mission to help life scientists develop bioinformatics competencies, Australian BioCommons faces challenges relating to Australia’s large size and small, widely-dispersed population.

Pre-COVID19, we developed a ‘hybrid’ training method to deliver hands-on bioinformatics workshops to large groups of researchers across the country. The method combined features and benefits of webinar-style delivery from an expert trainer with face-to-face hands-on practical exercises in a classroom setting. Workshops were held concurrently in classrooms at participating sites with trained local researchers acting as facilitators. Since the pandemic has made face-to-face training impossible, we now face different challenges when trying to reach researchers needing our training.

When gathering together physically became restricted, we moved our training workshops completely online. In partnership with Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, we augmented the method to utilise ‘breakout rooms’ for personal interactions between small curated groups of trainees with trained facilitators. Despite the delivery of workshops as online presentations, we preserved what makes our training valuable – the provision of hands-on, interactive and tailored learning opportunities. The method has become a key tool for us to ensure scalable and more equitable delivery of short-course bioinformatics training nationally.


Christina Hall is the Training and Communications Manager at the Australian BioCommons. Christina worked in a wide variety of science communication jobs before and after her PhD in plant pathology. Her previous roles at Melbourne Bioinformatics, EMBL Australia BioInformatics Resource and the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative have focussed on bioinformatics training, community building and communications.

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