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Contextual Learning Modules A New Approach To Bioengineering Education

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.170.1 - 5.170.7



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Paper Authors

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Yi-Xian Qin

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Partap Khalsa

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Michael Hadjiargyrou

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Mark W. Otter

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Kenneth J. McLeod

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Danny Bluestein

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

Session 2609

Contextual Learning Modules - A New Approach to Bioengineering Education

Mark W. Otter, Kenneth J. McLeod, Partap Khalsa, Yi-Xian Qin, Michael Hadjiargyrou, and Danny Bluestein

Program in Bioengineering State University of New York Stony Brook, NY 11794-8181


A sequence of Bioengineering courses are under development at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, to be used as part of a minor program to introduce students in the College of Arts and Sciences to Bioengineering and as freshmen/sophomore level courses in a Bioengineering major. Each course is composed of a series of contextual learning modules (CLMs) with a common theme, which are 4-6 contact hour modules, each introducing one major engineering concept in a biological context. Approximately one hour is devoted to class discussion of the context, ~3-4 hours doing hands on experimentation coupled with didactic presentation and ~1-2 hours of group participation in a design experience. The intent is to more clearly indicate to the students how the engineering concept may be integrated into their existing "world map" and thereby motivate the students to learn to apply the new knowledge. Our experience thus far suggests that students are enthusiastic about the CLM approach, but future studies will determine whether or not retention of content is improved. One drawback, depending on one’s point of view of the CLM approach is that by increasing discussion of the context within which the material fits and hands-on experiences of the concepts being presented, the amount of content which may be presented in a standard length course must be reduced.


Engineering education has undergone several transformations over the last 50 years and we are currently in the midst of another effort to rethink how we train engineers. Following World War II, with the rapid influx of servicemen into engineering schools, curricula were redesigned with greater emphasis on analytical techniques in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, heat and mass transfer, electrical theory, and materials science, with a corresponding decrease in both hands-on and synthesis experiences (1,2). Throughout the 1960’s, a continued shift in engineering curricula occurred in the direction of increased emphasis on analytical techniques, due in part to the explosion of knowledge in mathematics and the basic sciences. This represented a transition to the era of engineering science, an era which produced fine analytical engineers, but engineers who were required to learn most, if not all, of their design skills after securing their first engineering position. By the 1980’s, the effect of these shifts was evident in a

Qin, Y., & Khalsa, P., & Hadjiargyrou, M., & Otter, M. W., & McLeod, K. J., & Bluestein, D. (2000, June), Contextual Learning Modules A New Approach To Bioengineering Education Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8239

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