MEDSCI 731 : Advanced Reproductive Biology

Medical and Health Sciences

2023 Semester Two (1235) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Focusses on recent scientific advances in the field of human reproductive biology and medicine, with an emphasis on developing critical thinking skills. Examines the scientific approaches used to understand normal and pathological pregnancies, recent advances in reproductive medicine, and the ethical implications and considerations of assisted reproductive technologies.

Course Overview

MEDSCI 731 focuses on recent scientific advances in the field of human reproductive biology and medicine. It aims to take a research-based approach to allow students to develop an appreciation of the how our understanding of normal and pathological aspects of human reproductive biology have developed, where advances in this field may take us in the future, and the ethical implications and considerations of human reproductive technologies.

Throughout the course there is a focus on developing student's critical thinking skills, and applying this critical lens to the lecture topics.  We aim to produce students that can walk away from the course not only with an understanding of the biology behind advances in reproductive medicine, but with a skillset that they can transfer to any aspect of science in their future careers.  The course involves a combination of traditional lectures, with interactive sessions that critique relevant literature, and place the students in real world settings where they consider, for example, how they would assess an application to an ethics committee for assisted reproductive technologies. A number of invited guests are also brought into the course to illustrate how the core biology we teach is applied in research and clinical settings.

Specific topics taught on the course include the role of stem cells in reproduction, spermatogenesis and male factor infertility, the endometrium and endometriosis, premature menopause, and in vitro fertilisation. The course is taught by Dr Jo James, Dr Lynsey Cree, Prof. Cris Print, and Prof. Andrew Shelling, who each bring their own research topics of interest to life.

MEDSCI 731 is assessed by a combination of three tools: 1) a critical literature review; 2) a seminar presentation that forms part of a student-led workshop organised around a theme(s) of interest identified by the class; and 3) a final 3hr exam.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Course Contacts

Course Director and Coordinator: A/P Jo James, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, email:

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Critique conceptual and theoretical elements in reproductive biology (Capability 2.1 and 2.2)
  2. Synthesise literature in the field by critically analysing the value of different methodological approaches, and the characteristics of the research undertaken to obtain a wholistic understanding of current issues and debates in the field (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 5.1)
  3. Effectively communicate their understanding of the literature in both written and verbal forms (Capability 4.1 and 4.2)
  4. Apply theoretical understanding to frame questions on and form opinions about research in the reproductive medicine field (Capability 1.2, 3.2 and 5.2)
  5. Apply knowledge of how advances in reproductive medicine (in particular artificial reproductive technologies) sit within the context of both society and the ethical and regulatory bodies that regulate this field (Capability 1.2, 2.2, 5.2 and 6.2)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Critical Literature Review 20% Individual Coursework
Presentation 20% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 60% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Critical Literature Review
Final Exam

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 20 hours of lectures or interactive scenario based learning sessions, 4 hours of workshop presentations, 60 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 45 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience & Campus Experience

The course is delivered as a combination of lectures and interactive scenario-based sessions.

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities, including workshops presentations, to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Some teaching sessions involve scenario based learning and significant class discussion around this, and whilst they will be recorded, this recording is not always able to capture the full class discussion, and attendance in person is recommended.
The course will not include live online events as part of standard delivery.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

This course primarily uses the scientific literature, rather than text books, as the recommended learning resources.  A list of the recommended literature relating to each lecture as a start point for student driven learning is provided in Talis and can be accessed via Canvas.

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Feedback from students in 2022 was largely positive, with the course scoring higher than the faculty average. Some specific feedback related to greater transparency around peer marking of the workshop presentations, and suggested decreasing the weighting of the student grades to help ensure fairness. In reality, we find that students typically mark higher than the lecturing staff (whose grades already carry triple weighting). However, for 2023 we will revisit how student and staff grades are compiled, and explain this clearly to the class at the outset of the course to enable direct feedback. 

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.