The Urban STEM Collaboratory is a NSF-supported collaborative project led by the University of Memphis (UofM), the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD), and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) that provides scholarships and a variety of academic support to financially disadvantaged student scholars pursuing baccalaureate degrees in engineering or mathematics. This project investigates and implements mechanisms for supporting a diverse cohort of students in an urban context in their development of a STEM identity.
CourseNetworking (CN), an academic social networking platform developed by members of the IUPUI CyberLab, has been adopted by the Urban STEM Collaboratory to connect student scholars within and across the three campuses. Student scholars share aspects of their academic life, challenges, interests, and learning resources with each other through a posting feature via CN. Scholars also document their STEM experiences on their lifelong CN ePortfolio to earn program badges certifying various activities and accomplishments, such as Research Scholar, Diversity Scholar, Industry Intern, STEM Tutor, Peer Led Team Leader, and several other badges. The CN’s Anar Seeds engine automatically tracks users’ participation, allowing the program to assess members’ engagement, as well as organize cross-campus activities, including competitions.
In the 2019-2020 academic year, a total of 508 posts were created by students in the Urban STEM Collaboratory Network on CN. Based on the average number of posts created by each student scholar, IUPUI won the campus competition with an average of 8.2 posts/student. UCD placed second with 7.7 posts/student. However, if the competition criteria was modified to be based on the average number of reflections, post ratings, or Anar Seeds per student, the UofM would have been the undisputable winner. In short, each campus distinguished itself in student engagement via the CN.
In addition to the campus competition, during the first academic year of the program, 104 STEM Collaboratory Participant badges were awarded. Of particular note, 32 students earned the Learning Continuity badge through sharing helpful online learning and teaching tips in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We see these engagement indicators increasing with students and faculty utilizing CN tools as we enter a ‘new normal’ for learning and student engagement in the era of COVID-19,” stated David Russomanno, Dean of the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI. “With the pandemic, suffice it to say that face-to-face engagement has some new constraints; therefore, student engagement and community building through innovative online tools, such as those offered by the CN, have never been more relevant.”
The Urban STEM Collaboratory is delighted to recognize those students from each campus that earned the most badges during the 2019-2020 academic year:
Yechan Kim, UCD, 6 badges; Sidi Diawo, UofM, 6 badges; Anthony Dagher, UCD, 5 badges; Marilyn Ho, IUPUI, 5 badges; and Anna Osborne, UCD, 5 badges. Additionally, 23 scholars received 4 badges this academic year. The program will continue to implement innovative mechanisms to keep the student scholars connected and engaged in STEM identity development.