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Board 3 : Work in Progress: Are We on Track with Tracks?

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Biomedical Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jennifer R. Amos University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Dr Amos joined the Bioengineering Department at the University of Illinois in 2009 and is currently a Teaching Associate Professor in Bioengineering and an Adjunct Associate Professor in Educational Psychology. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Texas Tech and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from University of South Carolina. She completed a Fulbright Program at Ecole Centrale de Lille in France to benchmark and help create a new hybrid masters program combining medicine and engineering and also has led multiple curricular initiative in Bioengineering and the College of Engineering on several NSF funded projects.

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Gabriella R. Dupont University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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I am a MEng student in Bioengineering, with a BS, Bioengineering, both from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I am interested in biomechanics and how curriculum structure affects education outcomes.

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It is challenging to achieve technical depth in an undergraduate Bioengineering curriculum due to the implicit breadth of multidisciplinary technical content underlying the field. Moreover, institution-specific requirements can have a dominating impact on the depth/breadth balance and how they are attained. As a primary example, University of Illinois was forced to make challenging, required curricular alterations. We reduced our curriculum from 132 credit hours to 128 credit hours in 2010 due to a state mandate, and in 2013 increased ABET engineering hours from 49 to 57. These changes necessitated reduction of the requirements for fundamental science and traditional engineering courses from other departments to make room for courses with heavy design content, societal context, and integrated communication skills. While we are pleased with these changes, our curriculum has become increasingly rigid, which limits students’ opportunities to deeply explore technical content. So as to ensure depth, we also created five technical track options – Imaging and Sensing, Biomechanics and Prosthetics, Cell and Tissue Engineering, Therapeutics, and Computational and Systems Biology. While these tracks also help to align our educational focus with faculty research interests, they further add to curricular rigidity, as they are composed of courses largely outside of our department, so tracks are limiting student choices even further based on frequency of offerings and slot availability. Moreover tracks create anxiety for students due to the requirement to choose a specific focus early in their educational experience.

When speaking with peer institutions, it became clear that we were not alone in these challenges, and in particular, the debate over the benefit of technical tracks appears to be ongoing. Beyond challenges to students, technical tracks present difficulties for administrators, as maintaining relevance to modern bioengineering practice requires continual assessment and forecasting due to the rapid changes in the field, and can never comprehensively satisfy all technical needs in bioengineering industries. Managing the content of the tracks is further problematic due to pre-requisite strings that often extend outside of the home department. In a time when minors, certificates, and other methods of credentialing are widely available, we wondered how relevant tracks are for an engineering discipline. A benchmarking study was conducted of top Bioengineering/Biomedical program curricula in order to determine trends in track and elective offerings across programs. These data will be presented and discussed in this paper.

Amos, J. R., & Dupont, G. R. (2018, June), Board 3 : Work in Progress: Are We on Track with Tracks? Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30001

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