Full preparation for careers in the medical device industry requires that biomedical engineers enter the workforce with not only design and technical skills, but also working knowledge of topics such as regulation, standards, quality control, and healthcare economics, as they pertain to the medical device industry. These topics are commonly included in undergraduate biomedical engineering curricula on an “as needed” basis during the capstone design courses, ideally requiring students to implement them with respect to their projects. After using this approach, our program commonly received feedback from graduating seniors that, not only was coverage of these topics often untimely, but the presentations were viewed as distractions to completing project work. Furthermore, there was some inconsistency in the degree to which students felt they understood these topics at the time of graduation. In response, during a recent curriculum revision, our program added a required course called Professional Topics in Biomedical Engineering taken during the junior year prior to the first capstone design course. We hypothesized that by providing students with practical exposure to these topics in a dedicated course, it would lead to improved perceptions and understanding of these topics. A previous Works-in-Progress poster presented at the 2018 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition described the implementation of the new course. Here we provide the results and conclusions of the study undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.
A survey tool, the UIC Survey, was developed to ascertain students’ Understanding of (U), appreciation of the Importance of (I), and Confidence in applying (C) ten professional topics covered in the course. Three cohorts of students were included in the study design. The first cohort was made up of students who followed the previous curriculum that did not include the professional topics course. The second and third cohorts were the first two classes of students following the new curriculum. The first and second cohorts completed the UIC survey at the completion of the senior year. For the second and third cohorts, the UIC survey was administered at three time points in the curriculum to characterize the students’ initial and reinforced learning of these topics.
Results showed that student perceptions, with respect to understanding, importance and confidence, was similar for the two graduating cohorts for the topics of professional documentation and user requirements and design inputs. These topics were heavily emphasized throughout the design process in both the previous and the new curricula. Similarly, student appreciation for the importance of most professional topics was high for both senior cohorts. However, students in the new curriculum reported a significantly higher level of understanding of most professional topics covered in the new course and confidence that they would be able to apply them in the workforce. Furthermore, these perceptions were improved both during the professional topics course and then again throughout the senior design courses, indicating that the approach allowed the senior design experience to successfully reinforce these topics, rather than provide the sole exposure to them.
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