Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated mainstream adoption of online and remote learning approaches, which were highly advantageous yet challenging in many ways. The online modality, while teaching biomedical engineering-related topics in the areas of biomechanics, mechanobiology, and biomedical sciences, further added to the complexity faced by the faculty and students. Both the benefits and the challenges have not been explored systematically by juxtaposing experiences and reflections of both the faculty and students. Motivated by this need, we designed and conducted a systematic survey named BIORES-21, targeted toward the broader bio-engineering community. Survey responses and our inferences from survey findings cumulatively offer insight into the role of employed teaching/learning technology and challenges associated with student engagement. Survey data also provided insights on what worked and what did not, potential avenues to address some underlying challenges, and key beneficial aspects such as integration of technology and their role in improving remote teaching/learning experiences. Overall, the data presented summarize the key benefits and challenges of online learning that emerged from the experiences during the pandemic, which is valuable for the continuation of online learning techniques as in-person education operations resumed broadly across institutions, and some form of online learning seems likely to sustain and grow in the near future.

Graphical Abstract Figure

Drawing Survey Design New

Graphical Abstract Figure

Drawing Survey Design New

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1 Introduction

Engineering education has continuously focused on utilizing approaches that can improve hands on, application based, and adaptive design-oriented teaching techniques while developing future engineers' critical thinking and problem-solving skills to meet the needs of their profession [14]. Problem-based, project-based, experiential, and active learning techniques have proven effective in enhancing engineering education when utilized in the classroom and in-person learning settings [511]. Efforts in integrating similar pedagogy styles in remote and web-based learning have also continued to develop in recent years [1218], especially considering the extensive online efforts undertaken during COVID-19 pandemic [1921]. While existing literature provides insights on the effectiveness of pedagogical methodologies in improving engineering education and learning outcomes in in-person and online settings, there remains a critical lack of data on how short transition time in a teaching format from completely face-to-face to entirely online, as posed during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2022, affect the educational experience and efficacy across the entire spectrum of academic levels. The COVID-19 pandemic did not only impose nontraditional challenges in engineering education but also created a gap of quantitative and qualitative information regarding both educators' and students' challenges while trying to meet the rigor of engineering education while transitioning to online education.

Specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic posed an unexpected need to explore online teaching opportunities with little preparation time for many educators [22,23]. The institutional environment added to the variability of resources and tools available to educators and the students while transitioning to online/hybrid teaching modality. High-quality online education relies on several critical elements, including learning effectiveness, student satisfaction, faculty satisfaction, access, scale, and cost [4]. Several online teaching-tools were employed, including at-home kits, online meeting platform's break-out rooms, open board software, and associated student assessment data have been published in various studies [2427]. However, corresponding data on faculty satisfaction, access, scale, and cost remain poorly understood [28]. Additional challenges such as student preference in learning face-to-face, designing a well-thought assessment plan to minimize cheating in remote environments, and creating as well as maintaining a robust institutional supported infrastructure to support remote environments add to the complexity of assessing the efficacy and understanding the challenges of online engineering education experience. Experiences across institutions and individuals from the extended period of exclusively online education during the COVID-19 pandemic provided enable an opportunity to derive deeper insights on these aspects pertaining to online/remote learning.

A few published studies have reported the effectiveness of online education as administered during the COVID-19 pandemic through student surveys, and reported on challenges in employing online education through student and expert surveys [2935]. However, a comprehensive survey that collects both quantitative and qualitative data on challenges and efficacy of online remote and hybrid teaching from both students as well as educators is needed to develop interventional strategies that can help overcome the current limitations of online remote and hybrid teaching approaches. Insights from such in-depth data can advance our understanding of the effect of the pandemic on engineering education as well as enable avenues to new teaching techniques. This can, in turn, help improve the learning outcomes in engineering education approaches that include online components. With this motivation, we designed and conducted a dedicated survey for students and educators in the broad topical areas of biomechanics, mechanobiology, and biomedical sciences (collectively referred to throughout this study using the umbrella term bio-M3). This survey was named the Bio-M3 Online and Remote Education Survey 2021, or BIORES-21 in short. In this paper, we report our findings based on BIORES-21 survey results collected from the bio-engineering education community; and position it within the broader context of features, challenges, and benefits related to online learning in STEM disciplines.

2 Methods

2.1 Survey Design Methodology.

The BIORES-21 survey was designed and distributed through the Qualtrics survey platform. The overall survey design consisted of identifying whether a respondent was a faculty member or a student, and then asking three categories of questions to each respondent. Faculty were asked to provide a set of classifier information, followed by a series of course and teaching information, and their reflections on remote and online teaching. Likewise, students were asked to provide a set of classifier information, followed by a series of course and learning information, and their reflections on remote and online learning. This structure was implemented as a branching logic flow in the Qualtrics survey builder tool. Each respondent was asked to provide at least one, and as many as five course's worth of information for this survey. Faculty and students were asked the same questions on challenges, and experiences—to enable consistent evaluation from both sets of individuals. An illustration of the overall structure for the survey is provided in Fig. 1 panel (a), along with a screenshot of the branching flow implementation using our survey builder platform in Fig. 1 panel (b). For additional details, we request readers to refer to a pdf reproduction of the complete survey included as a supplementary material.

Fig. 1
Illustration of key survey design features. Panel (a) (top) shows the outline of the overall conceptual structure that was used to design the survey. Panel (b) (bottom) shows the implementation of the logic flow conditional structure of the survey design as programed in the Qualtrics survey builder tool.
Fig. 1
Illustration of key survey design features. Panel (a) (top) shows the outline of the overall conceptual structure that was used to design the survey. Panel (b) (bottom) shows the implementation of the logic flow conditional structure of the survey design as programed in the Qualtrics survey builder tool.
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2.2 Ethics and Institutional Review Board Exemption.

All responses recorded in the survey were anonymous, and the survey was carefully designed to exclude any form of identifying and demographic information from the respondents. Consequently, the survey was not considered as Human Subjects Research, and upon review of the survey questionnaire, the survey was approved without requiring additional Institutional Review Board approval and oversight.

2.3 Survey Distribution.

Once designed, the survey was distributed widely across faculty and students in the biomechanics, and biomedical engineering community. The Bio-engineering Division (BED) of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the associated Summer Biomechanics, Bio-engineering, and Biotransport Conference (SB3C) community comprised the primary distribution audience for the survey, being administered in conjunction with the 2021 SB3C workshop on Remote and Online Teaching of Biomechanics and Mechanobiology Concepts held virtually in June 2021. Additionally, the survey was distributed through social media channels, and faculty listservs—in order to reach the broader biomechanics community beyond SB3C, including the Biomedical Engineering Society community. The BIORES-21 survey data were presented to an open audience comprising educators in bio-M3 topical areas at the aforementioned virtual workshop at the 2021 SB3C meeting. Presentation of a preliminary analysis of survey data was accompanied by a panel discussion, and an open forum discussion on the trends reported in the survey responses.

2.4 Survey Data Analysis Methodology.

The complete database produced from the survey was exported and analyzed in-depth using a custom data analytics script devised in Python using the Pandas data analytics library. Likert scale data were extracted and visualized using a diverging stacked bar chart for all the relevant questions, providing a clear indication of the response trends. For text only responses, the text was parsed out and formatted, and thereafter keywords were identified manually for further classification and analysis. For comparative analysis between two questions or factors, datapoint correlation coefficients and Jaccard similarity indices were used for identifying pairwise trends.

3 Results

3.1 Summary of Survey Respondents.

At the final count when survey was closed, a total of 157 survey responses were recorded of which 146 were validated, and the remaining discarded as blank or incomplete responses. A summary of some of the key participant categorizations is illustrated in Fig. 2. Out of the valid respondents, 54.11% identified as Faculty/Instructor and 45.89% identified as a student. Among the faculty respondents, 93.10% were from an R1/R2 doctoral research university, 5.17% were from a baccalaureate college, and 1.72% were from a Master's granting college. 89.66% faculty respondents were from institutions running on a semester-based academic calendar, while the remaining 10.34% were from institutions running on a quarter-based academic calendar. Among the student respondents, 72.22% were from an R1/R2 doctoral research university and the remaining 29.78% were from a baccalaureate college. 97.22% student respondents were from institutions running on a semester-based academic calendar. Based on survey response data, faculty and student respondents differed markedly in prepandemic online/remote education experience. Specifically, both groups were asked if they had taught or taken (respectively) online/remote classes prior to the COVID-19 pandemic timeframe (that is, before Spring 2020). Among the faculty respondents, around 62.1% identified as never having taught online/remote before the pandemic; around 6.9% identified having taught some modules; and the remaining 31% noted they had taught entire classes online/remote before the pandemic. On the other hand, among student respondents, around 38.9% identified as never having learned online/remote before; around 16.7% identified having taken some modules online/remote; and the remaining 44.4% noted they have taken entire classes online/remote before the pandemic.

Fig. 2
A summary of survey participant data from the BIORES-21 survey. Panel (a) shows the proportion of survey respondents who identified as faculty versus those who identified as student. Panels (b) and (c) depict prior online/remote education experience for faculty and student respondents, respectively. Panel (b) presents whether faculty identified as having remotely taught entire classes, only some modules of a class, or nothing at all prior to the pandemic timeframe. Panel c. presents the corresponding responses from students. Panels (e) and (f) illustrate the distribution of institutions that faculty and student respondents identified with, respectively. The categorizations listed along the y-axis of the charts in panels d and e match with those included in the survey questionnaire.
Fig. 2
A summary of survey participant data from the BIORES-21 survey. Panel (a) shows the proportion of survey respondents who identified as faculty versus those who identified as student. Panels (b) and (c) depict prior online/remote education experience for faculty and student respondents, respectively. Panel (b) presents whether faculty identified as having remotely taught entire classes, only some modules of a class, or nothing at all prior to the pandemic timeframe. Panel c. presents the corresponding responses from students. Panels (e) and (f) illustrate the distribution of institutions that faculty and student respondents identified with, respectively. The categorizations listed along the y-axis of the charts in panels d and e match with those included in the survey questionnaire.
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3.2 Perception of Challenges in Bio-M3 Online Education.

One key goal here was to identify the challenges perceived by the faculty and student respondent groups in the space of online/remote education in bio-M3 topical areas, and compare the perspectives reported across these two groups. For this purpose, responses provided by each faculty and student regarding their respective courses were aggregated to report out the overall numbers and trends regarding survey questions pertaining to the underlying challenges. Specifically, for each course that faculty (and students) provided responses for, they were asked how challenging it was to teach (and learn, respectively) that course in online/remote modalities. Overall, both groups reported moderate levels of challenges in teaching/learning bio-M3 concepts in online/remote modalities as illustrated in Fig. 3, panel (a). The proportion of faculty responses, which indicated that teaching concepts online, was Not challenging at all or Slightly challenging, was higher than the corresponding proportion of student responses which indicated that learning concepts online was Not challenging at all or Slightly challenging. Additionally, a greater proportion of student responses included the extremes (that is, learning was either Not challenging at all or Extremely challenging) when compared to the corresponding responses from faculty. When asked what factors comprised the underlying challenges reported by faculty/students, both faculty and students identified student engagement and interest as the most prominent challenge in online/remote education in bio-M3 topics, as illustrated in Fig. 3, panel (c). The second most prominent challenge reported by the faculty respondents was related to logistics and operations. Conversely, for student respondents, the second most prominent challenge was related to telecommunication (including internet connectivity). Some of the additional categories of challenges identified by faculty were complications due to administering exams and assignments in a suitable manner, and conducting laboratory components online. One additional challenge identified from student responses involved lack of meeting time with instructors. Furthermore, in response to a different question in faculty/student reflections, both groups reported that they perceived that online/remote bio-M3 education can pose additional challenges compared to other disciplines. As illustrated in Fig. 3, panel (b), this perception was somewhat stronger for students (66.67% responded Definitely Yes and Probably Yes) than faculty (61.7% responded Definitely Yes and Probably yes). We note that the survey only asked the participants to identify whether teaching biomedical/bio-engineering topics online pose additional challenges (compared to other topics/disciplines). While experiences from other courses may guide the participants' response, the survey did not specifically ask participants to compare against specific types of other courses that they may have had experience with.

Fig. 3
Summary of responses for survey questions on the extent of challenges faced in remote learning. For each panel, top image reflects faculty responses, and bottom image reflects student responses. Panel (a) illustrates the responses to the question on how challenging was it to teach/learn concepts in exclusively online format. Panel (b) illustrates the responses for the perception of whether bio-M3 education poses additional teaching/learning challenges in the online modality. Panel (c) illustrates what specifically are the types of challenges that recognized by the faculty/students in the survey responses. The horizontal axis in all images represents the percentage of responses.
Fig. 3
Summary of responses for survey questions on the extent of challenges faced in remote learning. For each panel, top image reflects faculty responses, and bottom image reflects student responses. Panel (a) illustrates the responses to the question on how challenging was it to teach/learn concepts in exclusively online format. Panel (b) illustrates the responses for the perception of whether bio-M3 education poses additional teaching/learning challenges in the online modality. Panel (c) illustrates what specifically are the types of challenges that recognized by the faculty/students in the survey responses. The horizontal axis in all images represents the percentage of responses.
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3.3 The Role of Technology in Bio-M3 Education.

Technology has broadly been a key modality to address a variety of challenges in online/remote education in general. The BIORES-21 survey asked several questions to both faculty and student respondents regarding technology usage, and perceived benefits of technology in bio-M3 courses. As illustrated in Fig. 4, panel (a), both faculty and students overwhelmingly identified that integration of technology was beneficial for online/remote teaching and learning respectively (with over 80% responses for Probably yes and Definitely yes in both groups). Notably, while there were some responses from students indicating that integration of technology was Definitely not beneficial for students, no faculty responses indicated the same. Additionally, no student response stated Neither yes nor no for benefits of technology integration, while approximately 10% responses from faculty indicated the same. For the purpose of the survey, instructional technology categories provided to respondents were: (a) Student polling (e.g., iClickers, online polling); (b) Learning Management Systems (e.g., Canvas, D2 L); (c) Online Discussions/Forums (e.g., Piazza); (d) Collaborative Reading/Writing; (e) Document Camera; (f) Tablets (including stylus/pen interface); (g) Filesharing platforms; (h) Videos/Animations; (i) Screen-capture; (j) Video conferencing (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet); and (k) Other technologies of specific interest. The distribution of responses amidst these different technology categories from faculty and students have been illustrated in Fig. 4, panel (b). The results show a varied usage of all technology categories as described above, with an expected dominance of video conferencing technologies, given the prevalence of platforms like Zoom and Google Meet in terms of hosting lectures and office hours during the pandemic.

Fig. 4
Summary of responses for survey questions regarding benefits of technology integration in online/remote teaching/learning. For each panel, top image depicts faculty responses, and bottom image depicts student responses. Panel (a) illustrates whether faculty/students perceived that integration of technology was beneficial for the exclusively online remote teaching/learning phase during the pandemic. Panel (b) represents the range of technology being used in bio-M3 online teaching and learning modalities as identified to be important by faculty/students. The horizontal axis in all images represents the percentage of responses.
Fig. 4
Summary of responses for survey questions regarding benefits of technology integration in online/remote teaching/learning. For each panel, top image depicts faculty responses, and bottom image depicts student responses. Panel (a) illustrates whether faculty/students perceived that integration of technology was beneficial for the exclusively online remote teaching/learning phase during the pandemic. Panel (b) represents the range of technology being used in bio-M3 online teaching and learning modalities as identified to be important by faculty/students. The horizontal axis in all images represents the percentage of responses.
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3.4 Moving Forward to Bio-M3 Education Post-Pandemic.

Faculty and student respondents were both asked whether, based on their experience with remote/online teaching and learning, respectively, they had any preference for or against teaching/learning online as opposed to in-person, as education operations continued beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Both groups responded with a majority preference for in-person teaching/learning, as illustrated in Fig. 5, panel (a). No faculty responded to having a strong preference for online teaching (that is, there are zero responses from faculty indicating Strongly online in Fig. 5(a).). More than 80% of faculty responses specifically expressed a preference for in-person teaching (including preferences of Somewhat in-person and Strongly in-person). In contrast, around 65% of student responses indicated a Somewhat in-person and Strongly in-person preference, which was notably lesser in proportion compared to faculty responses. Faculty were further asked about their plans for the online resources/tools they have employed, once operations resume in person after the COVID-19 pandemic. As illustrated in Fig. 5, panel (b)., the strongest preference was for adopting some or all of the resources/tools into their instruction. This was followed in order by preference for leveraging online experience to devise new content or teaching methodologies. The weakest preference indicated by faculty responses to these questions was for actually offering all or part of their courses online. Likewise, students were also further asked about which approaches they would like to see in future offerings of the courses they have described in this survey, as operations resume in person. As illustrated in Fig. 5, panel (c), the students indicated the strongest preference for having more active or hands-on learning. This was followed in order by preference for more peer collaboration and preference for more technology in their classes. The students indicated their weakest preference for having more online materials as indicated in Fig. 5, panel (c).

Fig. 5
Summary of responses for survey questions pertaining to factors that indicated preferences for continued teaching/learning efforts beyond the pandemic. Panel (a) presents responses regarding preference for online teaching and learning from faculty participants (top) and student participants (bottom). Panels (b) and (c) respectively summarize responses from faculty and students on future plans and features from online/remote learning that they would like to see continued as institutions continue education operations beyond the pandemic, and resumed operations in person. The horizontal axis in all images represents the percentage of responses.
Fig. 5
Summary of responses for survey questions pertaining to factors that indicated preferences for continued teaching/learning efforts beyond the pandemic. Panel (a) presents responses regarding preference for online teaching and learning from faculty participants (top) and student participants (bottom). Panels (b) and (c) respectively summarize responses from faculty and students on future plans and features from online/remote learning that they would like to see continued as institutions continue education operations beyond the pandemic, and resumed operations in person. The horizontal axis in all images represents the percentage of responses.
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3.5 Perspectives on What Worked Well During the Pandemic.

In the reflections segment of the survey, faculty respondents were asked to describe one good thing that has emerged from your experience as a biomedical educator teaching online during the pandemic. Likewise, student respondents were asked to describe one good thing that has emerged from your experience as a student learning biomedical concepts online during the pandemic. Responses for these were recorded as plain text entries, and keyword-based categorization was performed as described in Sec. 2.4. From the faculty responses, a wide range of positive takeaways were identified. In the overall, the two most prominent positive takeaway themes that emerged were (a) the opportunities for flipped content/classroom in bio-M3 education enabled by online/remote teaching modalities and (b) the convenience of recording lectures. Multiple other factors were mentioned as positive takeaways as well, including (a) the general flexibility offered by online teaching (as opposed to in-person); (b) the added benefits of extensive integration of technology into teaching; and (c) the fact that many faculty were forced to generate new (and improved) course content due to the transition to online/remote teaching. Similarly, from the perspective of the student respondents, several positive takeaways were identified. Overall, the most prominent positive takeaway theme that emerged was the convenience of having recorded lectures available. Several other factors were mentioned by student respondents as positive takeaways as well, including (a) the flexibility offered in online/remote learning (such as no commuting requirements) and (b) the opportunities and benefits of independent learning made possible during online education.

4 Discussion

One prominent trend emerging from the survey was that both faculty and students indicated engagement as the key challenge in remote and online education involving bio-M3 topical areas. This response is consistent with reported trends on reduced student engagement in other published studies in the broad area of biomedical education, clinical education, and more generally in STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic timeframe [36,37]. Engagement, in such contexts, is discussed in terms of a variety of aspects, most commonly student interest in content, retention of information, and satisfaction with their learning experience [38]. However, the BIORES-21 data indicate a few additional aspects providing further insights into the matter of engagement. First, survey responses state that about two-thirds of faculty respondents indicated that their method of instruction was something other than a traditional lecture. This suggests an underlying attempt at adopting perhaps more nontraditional, innovative, and interactive teaching methods, driven likely by prior evidence of benefiting student learning and engagement. As discourse surrounding online education continues beyond the pandemic, it is thus worthwhile to have further explorations of what, if anything, went wrong with such nontraditional techniques, and whether any of such techniques have less/more viability in an online setting. For example, there is some evidence that project-based learning approaches based on group work posed additional challenges in remote settings with students not being equally effectively engaged [18]. Broader macrolevel constructs such as Self-Determination Theory have been identified as potential avenues to further investigate and motivate student engagement and learning in online settings [39]. In addition, students in an online flipped classroom for a chemical engineering fluid mechanics class largely responded favorably to this nontraditional format even though the end-of-semester evaluations still suggested a preference for in-person learning [40]. Furthermore, BIORES-21 survey responses indicate that both faculty and students perceive that bio-M3 education can pose additional challenges in online/remote modalities when compared to other topical areas. Considering the evidence that student engagement has been identified as a challenge broadly in STEM education, this opens an interesting potential area for further exploration of specific aspects about bio-M3 topics that can drive some of these additional challenges. For example, this could be attributed to a growing emphasis on hands-on project-based components in bio-M3 education, or indicative of an already active effort in adopting nontraditional teaching techniques, both of which can drive specific difficulties when remote/online education is considered.

Looking beyond the aspect of student engagement, we note some further interesting findings regarding logistics associated with remote/online education based on BIORES-21 survey responses. Specifically, students identified issues with Internet connectivity as the second most important challenge. This is an important factor to note, as at multiple points throughout the pandemic, this was a topic of discussion in conjunction with (a) access to stable Internet connection with sufficient bandwidth being a necessary resource and (b) equitable internet access, with lower income groups and underserved communities experiencing more connection troubles. Survey responses were therefore indicative of trends associated with the Digital Divide in higher education, and issues surrounding not only knowledge of but also equitable access to digital resources such as Internet, as reported in several studies [41,42]. These aspects are often, in turn, linked to factors like lack of a stable home for some students to be able to attend online classes. Issues such as these bring equitable and inclusive education efforts front and center when online/remote learning is discussed. This necessitates a comprehensive strategy to enable students to have internet access in an equitable manner. On the other hand, for faculty respondents, the challenges of resources and logistics were reported as more prominent than technology. This is interesting when viewed in conjunction with the fact that no faculty expressed a strong preference for online teaching, and faculty responses indicated a mixed preference in offering all or part of the course fully online. There are some potential parallels here to challenges in resources and logistics being often cited as a hindrance for adopting active-learning techniques as well [43,44]. On a related point, we note that a higher percentage of students indicated they had taken a fully online/remote course prior to the pandemic, compared to faculty. Student responses to the question on preference for online/in-person included > 20% responses identifying Strongly online or Somewhat online preferences; which is greater than the corresponding faculty responses for Strongly online or Somewhat online preference (<10% as indicated in Fig. 5, panel (a)). BIORES-21 survey did not have the data to distinguish if these fully online classes were bio-M3-related, broader STEM related, or general education classes. Hence, it is not clear whether students' preference originated from a greater familiarity with online STEM education specifically, or from greater familiarity with online delivery methods in general (and conversely for faculty preference as well). This also seems to suggest that bio-M3 education—and perhaps many other aspects of engineering education in general—started behind in online teaching at the time the pandemic started. Hence, it is particularly encouraging to see that while faculty preference for offering courses fully online/remote was weak, there was a much stronger preference reported in terms of leveraging the online experience to devise new content or teaching method. This indicates a desire among the bio-M3 educator community to think of potential approaches to merge features and practices from online into in person education.

With these various aspects discussed based on the student and faculty responses, BIORES-21 enables us to pose a key question to the bio-M3 education community: what form can online/remote education continue to take in bio-M3 topical areas in a postpandemic timeframe? Flexibility emerged as a common positive among both faculty and students. Educators will benefit from considering in what ways classes can continue to offer such flexibility even as regular education operations move beyond the pandemic to return to in person operations. For example, the survey clearly indicates availability of recorded lectures as a noted positive. If paired with a robust system of administering assignments and examinations, this can initiate a strong wave toward delivering remote asynchronous content, that complements and supplements conventional in-class content. In addition to tangible flexibilities, there have been several documented evidence that asynchronous content can provide value addition to typical course content in terms of improving student interest and learning outcomes [45]. Additionally, the availability of alternative forms of related course content available online in addition to in-class content can facilitate the idea of multiple modes of access to content, and multiple modes of engagement with content—which are central ideas behind the framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) [46,47]. UDL principles are themselves based on research on how humans learn, and what factors impede or facilitate learning. Infusion of lessons learnt from content development and delivery during these remote/online modalities with principles of UDL can therefore enable promoting an equitable and inclusive learning environment, by considering diverse learning styles and experiences. In addition, and despite not being directly the subject of the survey questions, the survey results prompted an interesting discussion on social interaction and empathy toward students in remote/online modalities, during the Remote and Online Teaching of Biomechanics and Mechanobiology Concepts workshop hosted at SB3C 2021 (see also Sec. 2.3. for details). This was somewhat exemplified in one anonymous survey comment by a student, wherein when asked Please describe one good thing that has emerged from your experience as a student learning biomedical concepts online during the pandemic–the student responded Professors asked about our mental health and well-being outside the classroom more frequently. I hope this continues when we meet in person for classes. Such responses hint at the likelihood that poor student engagement can in many cases be related to students feeling disconnected and distant. Online modalities, while offering flexibility, can lead to distance and disconnect, and promoting social connections as well as fostering an atmosphere of empathy can help bridge the gap in some cases.

Despite the large participant base, the extent of collected data, and the insightful response and trends, the survey had several associated limitations. First, the representation of the respondents was overwhelmingly from R1/R2 doctoral institutions, and categories such as minority serving institutions were not captured in the responses. This is a limitation considering that the kind of challenges and teaching/learning requirements can notably vary across these various institution categories. Second, the survey was largely confined to faculty/students in bio-M3 topical areas. While several insights drawn from the survey data can be generalized broadly to other STEM topical areas, there might be specific challenges in other areas that are not discussed here. Third, the survey was broadly focused on domestic and international students and faculty within institutions in the United States. Remote/online education in other countries, particularly in developing nations, will certainly have different challenges and benefits, which are not captured within the survey results and analysis presented here.

5 Concluding Remarks

The COVID-19 pandemic timeframe rendered a renewed prominence to remote and online education. Even as institutions moved beyond the pandemic and returned to in-person learning, online/remote learning remains likely here to stay and grow. The flexibility offered by online learning approaches, especially considering asynchronous modalities, is a key advantage that can drive several innovations in future. Yet, the most significant challenge appears to be student engagement, which is critical for students actually succeeding in their curriculum. Ongoing efforts in STEM education must seek to address this challenge in an equitable manner. Simultaneously, educators may benefit from strategies that encourage students to think about how they can engage themselves better in online courses, especially given the noted advantages of online content and modalities. The BIORES-21 survey data provide a reasonable snapshot of the broader bio-M3 educator and student communities' take on remote and online learning. The key inferences and nuanced insights drawn from these data will serve as an excellent resource for educators and students alike as modern STEM education continues to reflect on navigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, to learn from the experiences during the pandemic, and to grow through future innovative education efforts and initiatives.

Acknowledgment

The Authors have equally contributed to the study, and they acknowledge the support from ASME BED and SB3C for organizing and coordinating this survey, and fostering discussion surrounding this survey in the SB3C 2021 virtual meeting. The authors specifically thank the four distinguished educators who served as panelists for this workshop at SB3C 2021: Dr. Aileen Huang-Saad from Northeastern University, Dr. Nicole Ramo from WestChester University, Dr. Victor Barocas from University of Minnesota, and Dr. Rouzbeh Amini from Northeastern University. Authors also acknowledge support from the University of Colorado Boulder regarding survey tools and guidance on Institutional Review Board.

Data Availability Statement

The datasets generated and supporting the findings of this article are obtainable from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

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