2020 Cripton

Project Title Creation of an open source, WeBWorK based, problem library for undergraduate biomechanics courses
Principal Investigator Peter Cripton
  • Robyn Newell, Lecturer, School of Biomedical Engineering 
  • Agnes d’Entremont, Senior Instructor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Thomas Oxland, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Lyndia Wu, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering,
  • David Wilson, Professor, Faculty of Medicine
Faculty Applied Science
Funding Year 2019/20
Project Summary

We are proposing to develop an open source problem library for biomechanical questions aimed at undergraduate engineering courses at UBC. These courses lack freely available and effective resources for providing the students critical practice in solving real-life problems. To effectively teach biomechanics it is imperative that the students practice many types of problems and gain experience in setting up assumptions and validating their solutions. Problem sets for students are sometimes derived from existing biomechanics textbooks, yet, these are often expensive and multiple texts may be required to cover course material. Furthermore, most biomechanics textbooks lack an engineering focus or have graduate level complexity and contain a limited number of practice problems (sometimes lacking an emphasis on biomechanics) for students. For example, a typical undergraduate engineering dynamics course textbook (Hibbeler, 2013) has 1400+ practice problems, while a more graduate level engineering biomechanics textbook like Basic Orthopaedic Biomechanics and Mechano-Biology (Mow, Huiskes, 2005) has zero practice problems.

Instructors often derive their own example questions; however, it is time consuming and thus difficult to provide students with a large set of problems. Since these courses can have large class sizes, a range of topics, and a need for students to tackle open-ended problems, both creating and providing feedback on practice problems requires a great deal of instructor or TA resources that could be more effectively spent on other aspects of the courses (such as interacting more with students).

The WeBWorK, an open homework system used heavily at UBC and beyond, and its public problem bank, the Open Problem Library, provides an opportunity to set up a comprehensive problem library that can be shared across various biomechanics courses at UBC. WeBWorK will allow instructors to incorporate multiple different approaches to solving an open-ended problem into the answer-checking code. Having such a biomechanics problem library will allow students the freedom to make a range of assumptions and approximations that are a large part of biomechanics problem-solving. At the same time, they will still get direct and immediate correct/incorrect feedback on the result, at no cost to them. This kind of resource that we are proposing to create does not currently exist in either paid or unpaid form. Additionally, this project will enable open pedagogy projects where the students, as part of their course work, will develop problems and have the opportunity to share them in WeBWorK. This project proposal is a collaborative effort across the faculties of Medicine and Applied Science at UBC and includes the new undergraduate program in the School of Biomedical Engineering. The co-applicants are experts in the field of biomechanics, and all have experience teaching undergraduate biomechanics-related courses. The instructors (who are co-applicants) of BMEG 230, BMEG 330, MECH 436, MECH 536, MECH 435 and MECH 535 intend to integrate the problems in their courses. Thus, this project will provide a greatly needed problem library that could be incorporated into many, if not all, of UBC’s undergraduate engineering biomechanics-based courses, providing a valuable resource for students for many years.

Grant type  OER Implementation Grant
Funded Amount  $14,308 (this project recieved additional funds from the TLEF).