An online learning experience for resident students entitled “Interfacing with Microcontrollers” has been designed and implemented. This is a 2-credit laboratory course offered in online format using the Blackboard LMS. This course, offered within the Department of Biomedical Engineering and crosslisted as a multidisciplinary course in the School of Arts, Science, and Engineering at the University of Rochester instructs on how to interface sensors and actuators with microcontrollers in order to make measurements and control objects in the real world.
While learning objectives for this course center around teaching students to properly interface microcontrollers with sensors and actuators, the course was designed with a number of meta-objectives in mind. One such goal is the desire to enhance the employability of our engineering students by providing them with more and earlier opportunities to acquire and demonstrate technical knowledge and skills, which have been shown to be very important to engineering employers  Second, this initiative sought to use an online learning environment to overcome obstacles to increased enrollment in such skills courses, such as crowded student schedules and increasingly limited facilities for educational laboratories for large classes. Lastly, this course sought to provide early engineering students with a rewarding hands-on experience that can demonstrate the power of an engineering skill set, perhaps encouraging students, especially those who might require extra coursework preparation to facilitate success in engineering curricula, to remain in engineering programs. The latter goal precludes the expectation of any engineering experience, thus there are no prerequisites.
This course has been fielded in two consecutive Spring Semesters, with final enrollments of 10 and 36 students, respectively. Initial enrollments are somewhat larger, with a subset of students dropping after the organizational meeting in which the details of the online format are introduced. Course evaluation results are similar to those of traditional courses offering similar material. It is anticipated that this course can scale up to accommodate 100 students without difficulty.
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