The study included 108 undergraduate and graduate students in a biomedical engineering program. The students participated in two of the courses titled, From Cell to Tissue and Tissue Engineering during the academic year 2010-2011. Research participants included 57 students who participated in the course From Cell to tissue; 70% of the students in this course were females and 72% were undergraduates. In the following course, Tissue Engineering, 51 students participated; 74% were females and 94% were undergraduates. We can note that about two-thirds of the students in both courses were females studying for their B.Sc. degree. In addition, 16 students who studied in the course From Cell to Tissue continued to take the following course, Tissue Engineering.

The From Cell to Tissue course comprised three topics: the cell and its communication with its surroundings, reproduction and differentiation of cells, and the structure of tissues. Tissue Engineering is a more advanced course. It integrates principles of engineering and life sciences for developing and manipulating laboratory-grown molecules, cells, tissues, or organs to replace or support the function of defective or injured body parts.

Fifty-seven students participated in the course From Cell to Tissue during the academic year 2010-2011. They employed a hybrid model, which combined face-to-face teaching with asynchronous learning in a web-based environment. Students could be interactively involved using clickers, responding during the lectures to multiple- choice questions asked by the professor. Figure 2 is a screenshot of the website showing Professor Levenberg lecturing in the course Tissue Engineering. It also shows the following applications used in the website through the Panopto system: (1) Recording the lectures, (2) Uploading the course presentations, and (3) Using clickers to respond to multiple-choice questions during the lectures.

Figure 2: Screenshot of Prof. Levenberg lecturing in the course Tissue Engineering website. 

Before we started our study, Professor Levenberg had taught the biomedical engineering courses according to the traditional teaching and learning approach. Table 1 presents a comparison of the characteristics of the hybrid courses investigated in our study with the traditional teaching and learning courses. This comparison is partly based on the feedback written by the instructor (see Figure 2) for a Senate meeting at the Technion.

Table 1: Characteristics of hybrid courses vs. traditional F2F courses

 

Hybrid courses

 

Traditional F2F courses

Type of course

Characteristics

  • Upgraded lectures (the clarity of the PowerPoint slides and the accompanying visualizations were improved in comparison to the lectures in the traditional courses)
  • Constructing new multiple-choice questions for students' usage of clickers in order to enhance students' active learning in the classroom. Recording lectures and uploading them to the course websites

Teaching with a chalkboard and presentations

Lectures

  • Online forums designed to enable students to discuss learning tasks
  • Students posed questions for the online forum and led the discourse in the From Cell to Tissue course
  • Students seeking sources of information other than the lecturer

The instructor asks questions; students respond in writing or orally

Practices

 

  • F2F meetings of the lecturer and instructor with the students
  • Rapid  response of the instructor using the course website
  • Student-student interactions in the F2F meetings and the online forum

Within the lectures and practice

Interactions in the course

 

The lectures and tutorials which were recorded enabled students to observe and listen to these recorded lectures and tutorials via the course website. Students' discussions in the online asynchronous forum took place in the learning Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) environment in the course website, enabling students to discuss the relevant scientific articles. The assessment in the course was based 70% on the traditional final exam and 30% on forum activities, which served as an innovative and alternative assessment tool (Libman, 2010; Colleagues and Author, 2009). The weekly participation in the asynchronous forum discussions was based on questions posed by the students after they had read assigned scientific articles.

About one-third of the face-to-face lectures in the Tissue Engineering course were based on reading and discussing state-of-the-art scientific articles, while the online forum in this course was dedicated to writing research proposals in teams of three or four students. Each group received a different topic with three related articles and was required to find a fourth article and compose the research proposal.