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Keeping students engaged in the study of physiology can be a challenging exercise. Once the sole province of dusty textbooks and cumbersome lab manuals, the computer age ushered in quantum advances in the packaging of physiology curricula. Disadvantages were reflected in the cost of the systems, which often dictated that students crowd around a single computer, peering over shoulders with craned necks at confounding interfaces.

These early systems often left students feeling somewhat isolated because with only one student or instructor operating the computer, it was often difficult to engage all group members. Setting up the data collection was also a challenge and data quality itself was often poor. An unwelcome result was low student satisfaction and learning.

Gradually systems improved, becoming easier to use and more comprehensive. Current student physiology packages (such as Biopac Student Lab) divide various physiological disciplines into individual guided lessons (up to 65) and offer a high degree of interactive and multimedia content. Still, the challenge remains, how to keep students engaged and invested in the study of physiology? When considering a system, the following factors can help in this regard.

Choose a system that allows students to collect data on themselves. Engagement is higher when recording and analyzing one’s own data. Another key is to choose a system designed to offer all students a role. The student who isn’t the subject can be a recorder, director, or computer operator, and students can rotate to ensure everyone has a turn at being a subject. Everyone at every station has an integral role, rather than simply observing while an instructor operates complicated equipment. Simplicity of setup is also important. Systems such as Biopac Student Lab are compact and have standardized, modular “Simple Sensor” leads and transducers. The BSL systems come with all hardware, software, and support materials needed to begin collecting high-quality data within minutes.

The system should also support students’ ability to take their lessons home for further analysis. Biopac Student Lab can be augmented with a free downloadable analysis version of the software that can be used on any computer for analyzing data outside the lab. This enables students to remain more connected with their studies.

Lastly, interactive interfaces with clear onscreen instructions augmented by electronic and printed lab manual documentation are very helpful for beginning physiology students, and the system should be powerful enough to achieve clear, precise results while allowing for statistical comparisons be upper-level students.

This short list of key concepts encourages every student’s full participation, helps ensure all data is accurate, and allows students and instructors alike to obtain the most from the lab experience.

For more, click to watch a free BIOPAC webinar: Teaching Physiology: How to Engage Students in Lab Environments.

BIOPAC offers a wide array of wired and wireless equipment that can be used in your research. To find more information on solutions for recording and analyzing signals such as ECG, heart rate, respiration and more using any platforms mentioned in this blog post, you can visit the individual application pages on the BIOPAC website.

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