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

Course Description

Students acquire content relating to the virulence factors of the bacteria and the pathophysiology of the host while working through infectious disease case scenarios on their own and in online groups. Students taking this course must be willing to engage in both self-directed and small-group learning.

Intended Audience

This course is an upper level Infectious Diseases course suitable for self-directed motivated learners in the 4th or 5th (unclassified or postgraduate degree) year of their studies in the sciences or health sciences. (Exceptions may be made for highly motivated 3rd year students.)

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 entirely online 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 students to be: (i) self-motivated learners; and, (ii) capable of meaningful interaction in a small group setting.

Course Logistics

During the first week of the course students introduce themselves to each other, learn about the various learning modalities in this course e.g. case based learning and journaling, and, are organized into learning groups. During the ensuing 12 weeks of the 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 accompanying questions. Students learn the course material by probing the answers to these questions: Firstly, on their own, accessing a range of online material while charting their advancing knowledge in an online journal i.e. an e-portfolio. 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 to the case questions on a group Wiki, for all to see. At this stage the instructors enter into the discussion commenting on the learning submitted by each group: noting inaccuracies, confusion or points of difference or discrepancy between the groups. In prompting further discussion on the answers delivered by each of the learning groups the instructors push the learning to a deeper level during the third week of the course. Students continue to capture their learning in their e-portfolios throughout the three-week learning cycle of each case, submitting them to the instructors for grading at the end of each case.


Your performance in this course will be evaluated as follows:

  1. 30% of the mark goes toward your learning journals submitted at the end of each case.
  2. 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.
  3. The remaining 40% will be allotted to a final exam that will probe your comprehension of the knowledge you amassed during this course; it will take place in a formal exam hall setting.

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
  • 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 online resources and an e-Portfolio
  • reflect upon your learning and set learning goals

Who Are the People Involved in Running This Course?

Niamh Kelly (Ph.D.) has directed this course at UBC for over a decade. Niamh is a trained research scientist and educator with an interest in microbial pathogenesis. Patrick Tang (M.D./Ph.D.) is a physician-scientist who specializes in Medical Microbiology and does research in bacterial genomics and metagenomics.

Is This Course For Me?

Are you a self-motivated learner and able to meet established deadlines? Do you enjoy working as part of a group? Are you interested in microbial pathogenesis and infectious diseases? Being a 3 credit course means that you will be expected to spend approx. 6 hours a week on this course – have you made space in your timetable for this? 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 then this course is for you.


Contact: Dr. Niamh Kelly at