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Implementing And Assessing A Challenge Based Module For Spectroscopy In A Biomedical Optics Class

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Pedagogical Developments in BME

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.680.1 - 15.680.18



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Paper Authors

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Elizabeth Vargis Vanderbilt University

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Anita Mahadevan-Jansen Vanderbilt University

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

Implementing and assessing a challenge-based module for spectroscopy in a biomedical optics class


The importance of biomedical optics is steadily increasing as reliable, fast, and non-invasive tools are becoming exceedingly necessary for disease diagnosis and treatment. Many times, real- world biomedical optics applications are not discussed in a classroom setting, which may limit students' ability to use critical thinking skills to tackle engineering problems, as well as their ability to research and discuss current technologies. There were two goals of this project: 1) implement a challenge-based learning module (based on the Legacy Cycle framework) to diagnose skin cancer with optical spectroscopy in a junior to senior-level undergraduate course on biomedical optics and 2) assess the value of this module compared to previous years' lecture- only method of teaching optical spectroscopy. The experimental design was introduced over one semester. The module was assessed using 3 indicators: comparing test answers between 5 semesters worth of classes, a 1 page study guide on an emerging technology of skin cancer diagnosis created by the students, and anonymous student evaluations and feedback from a post- module survey. Preliminary analysis suggests that challenge-based teaching led to a slight improvement in understanding between the classes who did and did not receive this module. We also received positive feedback, as well as useful suggestions for future implementations of the Legacy Cycle.

Introduction and Problem Statement

Biomedical Optics is an emerging area in the biomedical engineering field, combining engineering and physics with medicine and biology. Regardless of whether students pursue careers in research, academia, engineering companies, or medicine, they will certainly be faced with optical technologies used for sensing, diagnostics, and/or therapeutics. Over the last decade, optical sciences and technologies have been widely developed for new applications and devices, both for basic science research as well as clinical settings. However, at the same time, biomedical optics courses have not been well-integrated into most undergrad biomedical engineering curriculums. At Vanderbilt University, a junior to senior-level biomedical engineering elective course entitled “Introduction to Biomedical Optics” has been developed with the objective of “using light from the far-ultraviolet through the visible into the infrared for diagnostic, therapeutic, and sensing applications in medicine and biology.”1

Previous work in the development of this course focused on creating and implementing an interactive instruction module of light distribution.1 This tool greatly helped students visualize abstract concepts, like light and its interaction with biological matter. Understanding this concept is fundamental to understanding the other processes found in Figure 1. Monte Carlo simulations were used to develop an interactive and visual learning module so students could obtain a conceptual understanding of light distribution in tissue, instead of having to rely on complicated differential equations.

Since 2001, various pieces of the course (Figure 1) have remained unchanged. Most years, student evaluations have indicated that the areas of fluorescence, Raman, and reflectance

Vargis, E., & Mahadevan-Jansen, A. (2010, June), Implementing And Assessing A Challenge Based Module For Spectroscopy In A Biomedical Optics Class Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16707

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