PATH 417B (6 cr): Bacterial Infection in Humans

Course Description

This course explores human bacterial infections focusing on both the virulence factors of the microorganism and the pathophysiology of the host response. The learning occurs using a case-based learning approach whereby the students, working first in a self-directed manner and then in online groups, are directed to acquire information while working through case scenarios. The course is delivered over the World Wide Web, using the WebCT Vista platform, with students and instructors all communicating online.

Intended Audience

This course is an upper level Infectious Diseases/Medical Microbiology course suitable for 3rd, 4th or 5th year, or post-graduate, 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 engages students in discussions about bacterial pathogenesis at the molecular level and hence assumes a solid introductory level knowledge of medical microbiology and immunology.
  • 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 case-based learning course requires the student to be both self-motivated and capable of meaningful group interaction.

Recommended as a 6 credit course

There are 8 infectious disease ‘cases’ in the course with the discussion of each case lasting three weeks. The cases are accompanied by a series of questions and it is in answering these questions that students acquire the knowledge and understanding pertinent to infectious diseases. The student starts by answering the case questions on their own, guided by the textbook, recording the answers in their e-Portfolio. This is followed by discussions among small groups of students followed by a sharing of each group’s answers with the whole class. The student is aided throughout by being directed to particular sections in the textbook and to other resources, both print and Web based. Throughout the learning process students continually update their answers to the case questions in their e-Portfolio as their understanding of the subject matter deepens.

Teaching and learning tools associated with this course, which may be new to students, include self-directed learning, case-based learning, small group learning and e- portfolio learning. Such tools are used extensively in professional schools, such as medicine, where the introduction of skills associated with a life-long updating of ones core knowledge is an important part of one’s learning. These new ways of learning take time to settle into it and students usually hit their stride after working through a number of the cases. For this reason we strongly advise students to take the course for 6 credits (rather than 3). The 3 credit option, available for students who simply cannot fit 6 credits into their timetable, simply consists of the first four cases in the course.

Course Materials

There is a required textbook: Schaechter’s Mechanisms of Microbial Disease. 4th ed.

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.

PATH417B Textbook Order Form

Course Objectives

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 most commonly associated with human infections using a body systems approach
  • compare the pathogenic mechanisms of bacteria commonly associated with human infections
  • describe 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
  • understand the role of the microbiology laboratory in diagnosing infectious disease
  • meaningfully contribute in a ‘small group learning’ setting
  • direct your own learning using text based and computer based resources
  • reflect upon your learning and set learning goals


Your performance in this course is evaluated in multiple ways

  • 30% of the mark goes toward your contribution to the interactive group learning process that drives this course. Given that a large part of the learning in this course is conducted through small group learning, it has been our experience that students interested in the course content but disinterested in the small group learning environment have failed to achieve the mark that they expected as a result of participating in this course.
  • 30% of the mark for this course is allotted to your e-Portfolio work; e-Portfolios are submitted at the end of each case. E-portfolios are submitted for feedback during the first half of the course allowing you to gradually learn about, and improve, your e-portfolio work.  During the second half of the course e-portfolios are submitted for grading.
  • The final exam counts for 40% of the mark and is administered, in a formal exam hall setting, by the distance education unit during the University’s second term exam weeks. It is an open book exam (i.e., you can bring the textbook assigned to this course with you to the exam) in which you are presented with a case that you have not previously seen.
  • While not formally evaluated in terms of being assigned a mark, a requirement in taking this course is that students periodically reflect upon their learning. For this purpose you are provided with a survey instrument that you are asked to complete at the beginning of this course and toward the end of the course.

Learning Online

Although you are somewhat directed in your learning in this course by virtue of the fact that there is a temporal path to how the cases unfold nonetheless, you will find it easier to participate meaningfully in this course if you manage your time wisely. Hence, if you would like to learn more about the time management and organisational skills that are crucial to taking a self-directed online learning course please consult the Learners’ Guide available on the OLT website.

Comments from Students who have taken this Course

  • “I think that the case-based learning 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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