The notion of providing higher education at a distance is growing at a rapid pace with advances in online and digital technologies. Currently, nearly 30% of all postsecondary students take at least one course at a distance, while public higher education institutions serve two-thirds of all distance learners. The growing student population and the need for more skilled workforce, together, are changing the landscape of online education in engineering disciplines. The overarching purpose of this work is to review and demonstrate the implications of online education in biomedical engineering. Specifically, this work will present strategies, quality assessment, and lessons from designing and implementing the first fully online course in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at the University of Arizona.
After three years of offering an on-campus version of an introductory, dual-level (graduate and undergraduate) course in biomedical informatics within the engineering curriculum, the course was transitioned to a fully online format in Fall 2019 to better serve the broader student population in BME and those in other engineering disciplines. The course involves a 10-week project, along with weekly reading, viewing, and writing activities that are designed to promote critical thinking and collaboration. To assess the overall course quality and generate meaningful results to the engineering education community, we use the Online Learning Consortium’s (OLC’s) five pillars of online education as a conceptual framework: learning effectiveness, access, scale, student satisfaction, and faculty satisfaction. Additionally, we use the Quality Matters rubric for continuous improvement purposes. Overall, we believe this work will serve as a stepping stone for designing, implementing, and assessing online courses in BME and identify key opportunities for online engineering education, including low stakes assessments and virtual projects.
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