Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
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. https://peer.asee.org/30001
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