Innovations in teaching STEM subjects can help build critical science literacy and address global economic needs. Virology teachers and researchers are actively developing and integrating innovative educational materials for students, creating engaging teaching programs and improving information platforms for the general public.
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All of the initiatives described herein are not intended to replace more traditional learning methods for high-school and undergraduate students. But, when well-integrated, they can make those courses more motivational and approach the learning of science in general, and virology in particular, with resources more approachable for teenagers and young adults. This too includes the restructuring of subject fundamentals in an engaging and accessible way for the next generation of virologists, as physical libraries are gradually transferred into the hands of students through tablets and smartphones. We are confident that this will improve general knowledge of virology in a sustainable manner (as interactive e-learning replaces text-based workbooks) and will excite minds towards further education or employment in this field. Sustaining the maintenance and development of such initiatives remains a challenge, since they are often dependent on temporary support programs and finite funding schemes. For example, the Innovirology programme received its funding from the European Union through Erasmus+ in 2014, with a maximum of 36 months. The move from textbook to online platforms may bring opportunities for funding through sponsorship and advertising, although its scientific integrity should not be compromised by third-party commercial interests. Licensing may be another model of sustainability, but that too is fraught with inequalities depending on the socioeconomic location of the learner. Lastly, some universities also modestly fund projects for innovative teaching. An example of this is the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Navarra, who both support the blog microBIO (https://microbioun.blogspot. com/). Another option would be to place greater emphasis towards generating outputs for dissemination of scientific data, and their integration into student curriculums, in research grant submissions. Educators could be encouraged develop teaching curricula to best utilize the technologies of the time and, through strengthening interactions with journalists and field leaders, help to actively identify misinformation and offer a source of unbiased, trustworthy material.
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