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      Creating a Welcoming and Engaging Environment in an Entirely Online Biomedical Engineering Course

      Biomedical Engineering Education

      Springer International Publishing

      Active learning, Inclusive environment, Student engagement

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          In the spring of 2020, brick and mortar colleges had to abruptly adapt to the reality of COVID-19 and transition to entirely online environments in a manner of weeks. This required a rapid (< 2 weeks) acquisition of knowledge and flexibility in using technology, most commonly Zoom. Upon completion of the semester, and after debriefing with numerous faculty teaching required courses across the biomedical engineering department at ____ University, the most common comments were that the online engagement and the online environment were nothing close to the traditional classroom environment: students were less likely to show up; less likely to enable their cameras so you could see their faces; and less likely to ask or answer questions in class. To address these issues, in this paper we make easily implementable recommendations that will increase engagement and improve the inclusivity of online courses that can be applied to any biomedical engineering course offered in an online environment. Student engagement is especially important for promoting student learning as has been well documented in education research (Taylor and Parsons in Curr. Issues Educ, 2011. Retrieved from; Armstrong in The Best Schools: how human development research should inform educational practice. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Alexandria; 2006). The four recommendations for improving the engagement in the online classroom are: (1) make it a priority to stress the importance of having their cameras on during lecture and explain why it’s important; (2) have a “Daily Question” at the start of lecture where all students respond in chat followed by a brief discussion; (3) make use of the polling feature in Zoom to frequently assess student understanding and upon discovering student confusion on any given question, send them to breakout rooms to discuss, incorporating a quick active learning exercise that can help reduce the monotony of online lecture; and (4) create handouts that are circulated prior to class for students to take different pieces of a particular problem, solve them in their teams in individual breakout rooms, and then discuss the content and results back in class with all teams together. These techniques were shown to increase engagement and attendance and fostered a welcoming environment in the online classroom, contributing positively to student experience and in turn allowing students to achieve student learning outcomes despite the difficult circumstances.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (10.1007/s43683-020-00024-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 2

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          Increasing student engagement in higher education

           C Collaco (2017)
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            Student perceptions of active learning

             A. Lumpkin,  RM Achen,  RK Dodd (2015)

              Author and article information

              Biomed Eng Education
              Biomedical Engineering Education
              Springer International Publishing (Cham )
              17 September 2020
              : 1-5
              GRID grid.26009.3d, ISNI 0000 0004 1936 7961, Department of Biomedical Engineering, , Duke University, ; Durham, NC USA
              © Biomedical Engineering Society 2020

              This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted research re-use and secondary analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

              Teaching Tips - Special Issue (COVID)


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