Jessica Ramella-Roman, associate professor of biomedical engineering and ophthalmology, and her students, are reshaping the way we think of online learning. In her BME 4503c Medical Instrumentation Design course, which is fully online, Ramella-Roman incorporates traditional lecture style teaching with hands on, lab-based projects to provide her online students with a truly unique experience.

Each week, Ramella-Roman’s online lectures are followed up by projects to deepen the students’ understanding of topics such as transducer, sensors, and embedded boards. In biomedical engineering, it is not enough to just listen to lectures; students need to be able to develop practical skills in order to become effective in the industry.

Throughout the span of a few weeks, students go from creating wiki pages and listening to lectures, to building low-cost incubators for newborn babies and a muscle-controlled artificial hand. Along the way, students learn complex concepts such as signal conditioning. Ramella-Roman believes that the online learning environment can be effective in cultivating students’ troubleshooting and problem-solving skills. Because she isn’t able to walk the students through every lab exercise in-person, the online classes force the students to think outside the box to come up with solutions.