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A Problem Based, Introductory Course In Biomedical Optics In The Freshman Year

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Mentoring, Outreach, & Intro BME Courses

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.98.1 - 8.98.7



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Paper Authors

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E. Jansen

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session: 1609

A problem-based, introductory course in biomedical optics in the Freshman year

E. Duco Jansen, Sean P. Brophy, Stacy Klein, Patrick Norris, Ming Wang, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Abstract For the past several years, Vanderbilt University has offered an elective freshman engineering seminar in the area of the student’s major. This paper describes the development and implementation of such a seminar in the area of biomedical optics that is developed around laser vision correction.

Drawing on current paradigms in the learning sciences, the entire course is presented in the form of challenges. Emphasis is placed on continuous posing of questions to students as well as forcing students to formulate questions relevant to solving the challenges posed to them. For example, the grand challenge for the course is for students to identify and explain issues related to “fixing their mom’s nearsightedness once and for all without needing contacts or glasses” A series of challenges help students explore the issues and engineering principles related to the eye as an optical system and the interaction of laser energy with tissue to define potential solutions. For each challenge students’ initial intuitions are documented. Class lectures, discussions, and virtual experiments using computer-based animations are used to explore concepts in more depth.

Extensive use is made of laptops (required for engineering students at Vanderbilt since the fall of 2002) in this course. A browser-based student assessment system (VSAS) developed in our department was used in this course for the first time. The short answer and assay feature in particular lends itself extremely well for implementation in a challenge-based learning environment and allows for assessment of active knowledge by the students compared to commonly used classroom multiple choice systems. This paper will describe methods used and experiences gained in this new course as well as utility of the laptop-based student assessment system and assessment data.

I. Introduction In response to the outcomes of a self-examination in 2000, Vanderbilt University School of Engineering concluded that several of the objectives for the freshman year were not met [Overholser 2001]. Like many of our counterparts elsewhere, the freshman year is filled with General Chemistry, Calculus, Physics, a Humanities/Social Science elective and an Introduction to Computing in Engineering course. Moreover, our school has historically adopted a ‘common freshman’ year in the Engineering School. While students declare a major prior to the freshman year, the common freshman year for all practical purposes, postpones a real decision on the major until the beginning of the sophomore year. Many students, parents, and faculty have

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Jansen, E. (2003, June), A Problem Based, Introductory Course In Biomedical Optics In The Freshman Year Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12222

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