Introduction: The goal of this project was to determine if active learning would improve comprehension of 2 key concepts in “Introduction to Biomedical Engineering (BME)” class. The freshman-level core undergraduate course provides a broad overview of the field of BME and is intended to be taken first in the BME curriculum.
The field of genetic engineering is an emerging and exciting area of BME research. The basis of this field is the design of recombinant DNA through plasmids. Cell culture and plasmid design are included as exciting areas of cellular and molecular biotechnology in the Intro to BME class, however feedback from the students indicated that learning about these concepts in a lecture format was confusing and too theoretical in prior iterations of the class. Therefore, the main objective of this work-in-progress project was to improve comprehension of these 2 key BME techniques (cell culture and plasmid design). To do this, modules were added to increase the interaction with the material, providing an opportunity for students to visualize the process. These modules were designed to provide scaffolding for when students transfect cells and perform cell culture experiments in BME lab (a sophomore level class they take if they chose BME as a major). In prior iterations of this class, only a lecture covered this material. For this iteration the same lecture was given, followed by the interactive modules (all in the same 2 hour class).
• Identify and summarize key components required to perform cell culture experiments.
• Describe the functions of various parts of a plasmid.
• Describe the key steps in protein production using recombinant DNA technology.
Results: Prior to the cell culture game the assessment average was 62% (SD 15.2, n=49 students). After the game, the post-demo assessment improved significantly (p<0.05, paired t test) to 88 % (SD 8.5, n=49 students). For the plasmid google form, the pre-demo assessment average was 73% (SD 14.4, n=47 students) and improved significantly (p<0.05, paired t test) to 84% (SD 13.2, n=47) on the post-demo assessment.
Conclusions and future directions: Active learning improved learning comprehension of key concepts related to cell culture and plasmid design. Ongoing work is exploring more interactive demos for biomechanics, biomaterials, and image/signal processing.
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