Implementing and Assessing a Challenge-Based Module for Spectroscopy in a Biomedical Optics Class

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title

Proceedings of the 2010 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference and Exposition

Publication Date



The importance of biomedical optics is steadily increasing as reliable, fast, and non-invasive tools are becoming exceedingly necessary for disease diagnosis and treatment. Many times, real-world biomedical optics applications are not discussed in a classroom setting, which may limit students' ability to use critical thinking skills to tackle engineering problems, as well as their ability to research and discuss current technologies. There were two goals of this project: 1) implement a challenge-based learning module (based on the Legacy Cycle framework) to diagnose skin cancer with optical spectroscopy in a junior to senior-level undergraduate course on biomedical optics and 2) assess the value of this module compared to previous years' lecture-only method of teaching optical spectroscopy. The experimental design was introduced over one semester. The module was assessed using 3 indicators: comparing test answers between 5 semesters worth of classes, a 1 page study guide on an emerging technology of skin cancer diagnosis created by the students, and anonymous student evaluations and feedback from a post-module survey. Preliminary analysis suggests that challenge-based teaching led to a slight improvement in understanding between the classes who did and did not receive this module. We also received positive feedback, as well as useful suggestions for future implementations of the Legacy Cycle.

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