PATH 417A (3 cr): Bacterial Infection in Humans

Course Description

The course explores human bacterial infections focussing on both the virulence factors of the microorganism and the pathophysiology of the host response. The learning occurs using a Case-Based Learning approach in which the students, working in groups, are directed to acquire information by working through case scenarios. The course is delivered over the World Wide Web, using the WebCT platform, with students and instructors all communicating online.

Intended Audience

This course is an upper level Infectious Diseases course suitable for 4th year or 5th year/unclassified University or College students in the sciences or health sciences.

What Do I Need To Take This Course?


  • An Introductory Medical Microbiology and Immunology course such as UBC’s MICB 202. The PATH417 course assumes an introductory level knowledge of medical microbiology and immunology. Experience has taught us that students without this prerequisite cannot participate adequately in this course.
  • Because this course is delivered over the WWW you need access to a computer with a (reasonably fast) modem connection, and a basic familiarity with word processing and web browsing.
  • The learning style associated with this course requires the student to be: (i) a reasonably self-motivated learner, and, (ii) capable of meaningful interaction in a small group setting.

Course Logistics

The course is delivered over 1 term. During the first week students are introduced to each other, organised into learning groups and introduced to the various learning modalities in this course e.g. case based learning. Over the ensuing term, students are introduced to a new case every three weeks, (leading to a total of 4 cases in the course). Each case consists of a narrative with 4 accompanying questions. Students learn the course material by answering the questions associated with the case: (i) On their own, while reading the designated chapters in their textbook and other indicated resources. They record their answers to the case questions in their e-portfolio. (ii) Following this exercise, students enter into their learning groups wherein they discuss each other’s individual answers to the case questions eventually arriving at a group (consensus) answer to each case question. Each group then posts their answers for all to see. (iii) It is at this stage that the instructors enter into the discussion. They comment on the answers submitted and, in particular, on points of difference or discrepancy between the groups. In prompting a discussion on the differing answers delivered by the learning groups they push the learning to a deeper level.

Please note: unless you cannot fit 6 credits into your schedule, we recommend that you take the 6 credit option of this course: PATH 417B.

Course Materials

There is a required textbook for this course:

Schaechter, Engleberg, Eisenstein, Medoff. Mechanisms of Microbial Disease. 4th ed. Williams & Wilkins.

PATH417A Textbook Order Form

You are directed in your reading of the textbook by the cases. Additional recommended resources, to which you may be directed during the course, are available to you through the UBC library or on the WWW. We recommend that you purchase a (pocket sized) medical dictionary to help familiarize yourselves with new terms as they arise.

What Will I Learn As A Result of Taking This Course

This course teaches both skills and knowledge. By the time you have finished this course you will have learnt how to:

  • think about infectious diseases by outlining the steps taken when bacteria infect humans
  • name the bacteria commonly associated with human infections using a body systems approach
  • compare and contrast the pathogenic mechanisms of bacteria commonly associated with human infections
  • describe the common clinical presentations, in terms of signs and symptoms, of key infectious diseases
  • outline the role of the immune response in contributing to the pathophysiology of key infectious diseases
  • meaningfully contribute in a ‘small group learning’ setting
  • direct your own learning using an e-Portfolio and both text based and computer based resources
  • reflect upon your learning and set learning goals


Your performance in this course will be evaluated as follows:

  1. 30% of the mark goes toward your contribution to the interactive group learning process that drives this course. This will be evaluated using the following criteria: (i) meaningful contribution to the group’s learning; (ii) continuous involvement in the teaching and learning process; (iii) fostering the learning environment for others.
  2. A further 30% of the mark goes toward your e-portfolio work during the course.
  3. The final 40% of the total mark will be allotted to a final exam which will probe (i) your comprehension of the knowledge you amassed during this course; and, (ii) your ability to synthesise and integrate content based on your knowledge. The final exam will take place in a formal exam hall setting.

Who Are the People Involved in Running This Course?

Niamh Kelly (Ph.D.) has directed this course at UBC for more than ten years. She was instrumental in transforming the course from a lecture hall based course to its current case-based small group learning course offered online. Niamh is a trained research scientist and educator with an interest in microbial pathogenesis. She is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine where she is involved in delivering UBC’s distributed medical program. Niamh is joined, in delivering the course, by Linda Hoang (MD), a Medical Microbiologist at the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Is This Course For Me?

Are you self-motivated and able to meet established deadlines? Do you enjoy working as part of a group? Are you interested in microbial pathogenesis and infectious diseases? Do you enjoy using a computer to communicate (or, are you willing to give it a try)? If you answered yes to all of the above than this course is for you.

Comments From Students Who Have Taken This Course

  • “I think that the PBL format of facilitation rather than didactic (lecture-based) learning is far superior and I’m glad that I had an opportunity to experience it in my undergraduate career.”
  • “The cases are an excellent way to direct our learning.”
  • “Working through the cases was actually a fun way to learn.
  • “Group learning was also invaluable to this style of learning.”
  • “I think it was abundantly clear what was expected of us as students.

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