Rucha Joshi Develops Online Course with Formative Feedback Amidst the Pandemic

student sitting in grass with laptop

With a motivation to immerse students in engineering design, graphics communication, and computer aided design (CAD) skills early-on in the biomedical engineering curriculum, Joshi and a few of her graduate students launched a new 2-unit laboratory course on “Graphics Design in BME” in the Spring 2020 quarter for UC Davis sophomores. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were faced with the significant challenge of converting to an online teaching format instead of the planned face-to-face instruction.

Providing formative feedback was thought to be an important step to help students succeed in their final CAD project of the course. In the process of designing feedback, they found that the concept of feedback is still fragile in an online learning environment because online learning settings provide distinct pedagogical demands as compared to face-to-face settings. The situation is especially delicate in the context of contemporary higher education imparting engineering skills, where students attend large classes, with diminished opportunities to interact with the teaching staff. The challenge Joshi and her team faced was to provide meaningful dialogic feedback in an online environment, especially while teaching engineering graphics design to a large class.

The group addressed this challenge by focusing on the process of structuring meaningful feedback. They designed a project assignment to be submitted as multiple deliverables in two stages. They then characterized its feedback with multiple notions, such as dialogic iterative cycles, personalized, goal-directed, immediate, in written format, as well as a peer assessment component.

The process of providing formative feedback online through the developed structure resulted in students’ improved scores on the final project elements. It also helped to identify the common issues students are faced with in a graphics design class, and provided customized guidance, ideal examples of expected work, and more resources to motivate each student group to achieve mastery of course content.

View the full manuscript recently published in Biomedical Engineering Education for a closer look into their process.