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Teaching an Immersive Experiential Introductory Biomedical Engineering Course in the Land of Covid (AKA: An Old Dog Has to Learn New Tricks)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Improving the BME Classroom on the Ground and Virtually

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Charles J. Robinson Clarkson University Orcid 16x16

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IEEE Life Fellow, AIMBE Founding Fellow, U.N.E.S.C.O. Academician.
Director, Center for Rehabilitation Engineering, Science, and Technology (CREST), and Shulman Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY.
(Retired) Senior Rehab Research Career Scientist, VA Medical Center, Syracuse, NY. Adjunct Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY.
Registered Professional Engineer (Ohio).

Robinson's teaching approach comes from an amalgam of academic, industrial (Bell Labs), governmental (VA) and clinical experiences, plus an interest in science and ethics from his undergraduate days.

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Loretta Driskel Clarkson University

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Since the late 1990's my passion has been to create engaging, diverse teaching and learning experiences for students and faculty. As the senior instructional designer at Clarkson University, I have presented at conferences such as the Online Learning Consortium and I have presented at a wide variety of other venues including ADEIL; Sloan-C International Online Learning; Sloan-C Blending Learning; eLearning Consortium of Colorado Conference; SUNY Online Learning Summit (SOL) (DOODLE;, Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference (TLT), and the Conference on Instructional Technologies.

All of these presentations focused upon the various topics that support my mission for student success and efficient class management.
SUNY has recognized me as an Open SUNY Fellow Expert Online Instructional Designer. In addition, I am a member of the MERLOT Teacher Education Editorial Board as well as a MERLOT Peer Reviewer Extraordinaire several years running. And as a certified Quality Matters Master Reviewer and peer reviewer in general, I have reviewed hundreds of online and blended course using various checklists including the OSCQR.

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Erin Blauvelt Clarkson University


Laura J. Perry Clarkson University

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Laura J. Perry is Director of Academic Technology and Support in the Office of Information Technology at Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York. In this role, Laura led the founding of the Teaching and Learning Corner (TLC), Clarkson’s first service center aimed to support the adoption of instructional technology and design practices for undergraduate and graduate education at Clarkson. Laura and her TLC team of senior instructional designers successfully campaigned to have Clarkson align with Quality Matters as an institutional member in 2017. The TLC has gone on to train dozens of faculty to apply the QM rubric in their own course. In the wake of COVID19, this foundation aided the University's pivot to remote learning in Spring 2020, as well as helped faculty prepare for the transition of 300+ courses to various instructional delivery modes with TLC’s design and delivery of an institution wide faculty training initiative called RISE: Reframing Instruction for Success Everywhere in Summer 2020. These and other efforts led to a successful restart of class instruction for the Fall 2020 term.

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Clarkson University’s BR200 is a highly interactive and well-subscribed (~50 students per term) generally face-to-face entry-level biomedical engineering class. Its title is Introduction to Biomedical and Rehabilitation Engineering. This long paper deals with the successes and pitfalls of taking this course abruptly online mid-course in the spring 2020 semester and as a hybrid but mainly remote fall 2020 course, both as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This class had been taught for over 25 semesters by the same instructor with the help of a few guest lectures.

The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic profoundly altered the way any business or social interaction could be carried out. Universities were no exception. One day in mid-March 2020 undergraduate students were suddenly told to pack up and leave campus. All instruction was then to be remote. We describe and analyze 1) the incremental changes made in the approach to teaching this face-to-face class that were implemented from spring 2011 until fall 2019 based on feedback and assessment; 2) the changes made to the in-person spring 2020 class at its start because of a fall 2019 two-day institutional Quality Matters (QM) class taken by the instructor; 3) the rapid, fairly painless and sometimes clueless transition mid-spring 2020 to online instruction aided by the QM rubrics that were already in place for the class; and 4) the painful but necessary transition to a “proper” method of hybrid teaching (split in-class and online) that was greatly aided by the University’s offering of a 4-week volunteer (i.e., no pay) intensive summer program for faculty entitled “RISE: Reframing Instruction for Success Everywhere.” Using abundant student assessment and reflective data, this paper takes a deep dive into lessons learned, work required, comparisons of didactic approaches, and how students’ assessments changed. The first author relates how he, as an old dog and set in using his unlearned teaching methods, had to learn new tricks in order to survive as an effective instructor during a pandemic. The Quality Matters and the RISE courses prepared the instructor for better online course management, especially for the hybrid fall 2020 term. But the hours required for course management increased >10-fold for the fall term over the course as it was previously offered.

BR200 used a highly effective interactive synchronous exercise to get naive students fired up about the biomedical engineering field. Translating this synchronous immersive exercise for remote learning was a challenge. The students really missed or found it hard to carry out interactive class assignments either with the professor or with each other. The majority of students surveyed in the COVID era said that they preferred face-to-face classes but tolerated remote learning because they needed to. Yet when given the chance to be face-to-face in a hybrid class, only 1 or 2 students did so. The 8am class time played a role, but COVID-avoidance might have been a bigger cause. Student vaccination only became available mid-April 2021.

Module-based untimed open-source quizzes, although difficult, were preferred by the students over hand-written open notebook midterms and finals. Many commented that their stress was significantly reduced even if they struggled with the quizzes. The open-access online flipped finals yielded more complete answers than did an open-notebook in-class final. Flipped testing required the students to outline what they had learned from each module and provide a synopsis in the form of a summary essay for review. In addition to finding out what they knew, the instructor could determine what they didn’t know or had misconceptions with.

Robinson, C. J., & Driskel, L., & Blauvelt, E., & Perry, L. J. (2021, July), Teaching an Immersive Experiential Introductory Biomedical Engineering Course in the Land of Covid (AKA: An Old Dog Has to Learn New Tricks) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015