Course Trailer

BME 3240: Fostering student engagement in a virtual classroom

An award-winning Biomedical Engineering professor uses a combination of tools to present course materials and objectives, encourage participation in multiple forms, and analyze and solve problems collaboratively.

  • Course: BME 3240: Biotransport
  • Instructor: Brian Helmke
  • Enrollment: 64 students
  • Format: Largely synchronous
    • Interactive lectures with group activities
    • Modular lessons and problem sets
    • Question and discussion boards
    • Periodic polls

Course content and activities: UVACollab

Brian's site in UVACollab serves as the foundation for his content and activities. Among its versatile suite of tools, the Syllabus tool and the Lessons tool allow him to present his syllabus and expectations, and the series of topical challenges that define his course, in a clear and easily accessible format. Students can submit scans or photos of their handwritten work with the Assignments tool, allowing Brian and his teaching assistants to provide detailed feedback electronically. The Gradebook tool is updated automatically as new grades are released, providing students with a comprehensive and current record of their academic performance.

Student collaboration: Zoom; Panopto; Piazza

Brian hosts his synchronous course meetings in Zoom, leveraging its screensharing options to analyze and solve problems in detail and its breakout rooms to facilitate student collaboration in challenge groups. Meeting recordings are archived in Panopto for review, which encourages retention of important concepts. During other times, students can pose questions to their classmates and their instructors in Piazza. LaTeX, code blocking, and other advanced formatting support discussions of even the most complex questions, and the message board format and endorsed responses empower students to help one another—which can cement their own learning.

Student engagement: Polling; Annotation

Throughout his course meetings, Brian polls his students with basic multiple choice questions to measure comprehension and reinforce previous concepts. Polling tools available to UVA instructors include iClicker and Poll Everywhere. Annotating slides and other documents adds a visual dimension to the teaching and learning experience that can be extremely helpful to the viewer, both in the live session and in the recording. Annotation tools available to UVA instructors include Hypothesis and NowComment.