Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Interactive Teaching System for Bond Graph Modeling and Simulation in Bioengineering

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Interactive Teaching System for Bond Graph Modeling and Simulation in Bioengineering

Article excerpt


At the university level, the teaching of bioengineering involves a variety of topics ranging from biology, biochemistry, medicine, automation, and informatics. Therefore, training in this domain is a difficult problem (Akpan, 2001; Djordjevic, Gerla, Huptych, Lhotska, & Krajca, 2010; Gonzalez-Cruz, Rodriguez-Sotres, & Rodriguez-Penagos, 2003). Within the design process of a bioengineering course, significant problems are the modeling of bioprocesses and the simulation of these complex systems (Dochain, 2008; Petre, 2006; Roman, Sendrescu, Bobasu, Petre, & Popescu, 2011; Roman & Selisteanu, 2012; Selisteanu, Roman, & Sendrescu, 2010). Another important problem is the choice of teaching system to pass from theory to practice. The teaching material in the field of bioengineering can be classified as simulators, laboratory bioreactors, pilot bioreactors, and industrial bioreactors.

As was demonstrated by the large number of studies, the interactive computer simulations, designed to teach complex processes, have become very popular in all domains of science education, such as physics, chemistry, and biology (Holzinger, Kickmeier-Rust, Wassertheurer, & Hessinger, 2009). Nowadays, technological developments such as computer simulations can implement more effective the so-called inquiry learning (de Jong, 2006). By using simulations to model a phenomenon, students can perform experiments by changing some variables and then observe the effects of their changes; thus, they discover the properties of the original model (de Jong, 2006). Simulations as learning tools are engaging and can be valuable for bioengineering. On the whole, a major advantage of learning with interactive simulations can be seen in the highly constructivist nature of such learning processes (Gulbahar, Madran, & Kalelioglu, 2010; Holzinger et al., 2009).

Several works, such as (de Jong, 2006; Keselman, 2003; Lawson, 2002; Manlove, Lazonder, & de Jong, 2006), reported that the students have significant problems with different inquiry learning processes: they have difficulty choosing the right variables to work with; they do not necessarily draw the right conclusions from experiments; they may have difficulty linking experimental data and hypotheses; they fail to make predictions; they make mistakes when interpreting data; and more. Therefore, research currently focuses on finding cognitive tools that help to surmount these problems and produce efficient learning situations. More precisely, computer environments can integrate these cognitive tools with the simulation (de Jong, 2006).

However, essential practical details can be lost if engineering teaching is reduced only to lectures and digital simulations, bypassing physical/biochemical experiments because of their relatively high costs (Precup, Preitl, Radac, Petriu, Dragos, & Tar, 2011). For that reason, most of universities try to purchase or to develop real bioreactors (laboratory or pilot reactors); in this way the laboratories can be achieved by using real bioprocesses. Of course, it is essential to apply the theory on real bioprocesses, but in most cases this method is expensive, and in some situations there are biological risks; therefore, in many cases simulators are used (Gonzalez-Cruz et al., 2003). Linked to this approach, in the last period a lot of interactive, computer and web-based teaching systems were reported, but especially related to physics/chemistry/biology education (Bunce, VandenPlas, & Havanki, 2006; Chang, Chen, Lin, & Sung, 2008; Gibbons, Evans, Payne, Shah, & Griffin, 2004; Limniou, Papadopoulos, & Whitehead, 2009, Milrad, 2002). Consequently, the use of software simulators is common and it constitutes an alternative to real bioreactors.

Concerning the choice of a particular teaching tool for biotechnology education at undergraduate and/or master level, it is obvious that this education requires intensive training in laboratory procedures. …

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