Pioneered by companies like 23andMe.com, deCODEme.com, and Navigenics.com, direct-to-consumer genetic testing refers to genetic tests that are marketed directly to consumers via television, print media, or the Internet. This kind of testing provides access to a customer’s genetic information without necessarily involving either a medical health care professional or a genetic counselor in the process. In recent years, a course offered to medical and graduate students at Stanford University has included an option for students to undergo personal genotyping, raising the possibility that direct-to-consumer genetic testing could also be incorporated into undergraduate biology courses to enhance student learning. In this study, I assess the attitudes and concerns of college students enrolled in the first semester of an introductory majors course in biology, before and after they had completed the course, regarding the availability of this technology and its possible use in the college classroom. The pre-course survey revealed that these students were open to the possibility of using this technology in their courses, but that they had concerns about the confidentiality and the accuracy of their genetic results. Strikingly, however, completing the genetics, molecular and cellular biology semester-long portion of the yearlong introductory sequence in biology appeared to boost student confidence in this technology and its use in the undergraduate classroom.
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