An active learning approach to education in MRI technology for the biomedical engineering curriculum

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It is challenging to give students an intuitive understanding of the basic magnetic resonance phenomenon and a sample of the many MRI techniques. Whereas compact mathematical descriptions of MRI
techniques can be made, students are typically left with no intuitive understanding unless the common sense expressed in the math is in focus. Unfortunately, the nuclear dynamics happen in four dimensions, and are therefore not well suited for illustration on blackboard. 3D movies are more appropriate, but they do not encourage active learning. The typical solution employed by educators is hand waving (literally), since arm motions can to a limited extent be used to illustrate nuclear dynamics. Many students find this confusing, however, and students who do not grasp the meaning during lectures, are left in a bad position. For this reason, educational software was developed over the last decade (the Bloch Simulator). It is freely available and can be run directly from the software homepage that also links to YouTube software presentations aimed at educators and students who have already gotten a first introduction to MRI concepts. The software is mainly aimed at educators for interactive demonstration of MRI techniques but can also be used for student exercises which may significantly improve the understanding of MRI concepts. The presentation demonstrates software made for the first few minutes of MRI education but focuses mostly on the educational value of the more advanced Bloch Simulator. It is explored how,and to what extent, active learning based on the software may improve student understanding. An interactive teaching session on advanced topics (pulse types, the Fourier relationship, selectivity) was evaluated using pre- and post-lecture anonymous questionnaires. These are challenging and significant subjects, and it was hypothesized that the approach may improve student understanding considerably.Though rigorous testing of the benefit over traditional teaching was not within the scope of the project,indications of improved skills were found, and the student satisfaction was excellent.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 11th Active Learning in Engineering Education Workshop
Number of pages10
Publication date2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventThe 11th Active Learning in Engineering Education Workshop - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 20 Jun 201222 Jun 2012
Conference number: 11


ConferenceThe 11th Active Learning in Engineering Education Workshop


  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Education
  • Evaluation
  • Bloch MRI simulator software

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