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In this paper, we describe the successful implementation of a virtual learning environment for an immersive blockchain workshop that was designed to increase awareness, cultivate collaboration, and build technical knowledge in Blockchain technologies for participants in minority-serving academic engineering and computer science communities. In the pre-Covid world, the authors meticulously designed an immersive two-day technical workshop on Blockchain technologies for engineering and computer science communities in efforts to increase awareness and cultivate interdisciplinary collaborations among researchers at an historically black university. When the covid-19 pandemic disrupted our lives on a global scale, the authors contemplated canceling the event completely. However, understanding the significance of Blockchain as an emerging technology and knowing how important this knowledge is to the advancement of education in minority communities, the authors made the executive decision to host a completely virtual workshop event.
The primary goals of the virtual Blockchain workshop did not change. They were: (1) to provide an immersive environment for participants to learn about Blockchain technologies; (2) to cultivate networking and collaborations among faculty and students in Blockchain; and (3) to stimulate interest and awareness of Blockchain and Fintech research in engineering and computer science departments at the minority-serving institution (MSI). However, the authors had to rethink and redesign a completely virtual, online event. How can we make the learning environment engaging? How can we make the learning environment collaborative? How can we ensure that instruction is effective and meaningful for participants? How can we recruit students to participate in this informal online educational enrichment activity? These were some of the questions that the authors considered when redesigning the Blockchain workshop. The workshop redesign included three main design elements: a leadership team; an immersive blockchain curriculum design, and fun and engaging enrichment activities including online games and a networking café.
The program success was determined using seven key indicators such as (1) the total number of registrants; (2) the number of attendees who completed the 1st session and earned badge; (3) the number of attendees who received two badges at the end of the workshop; (4) number of attendees who were able to network with one another either in-person or in virtual breakout rooms; (5) percentage of faculty participants who have intentions to incorporate Blockchain into their instructional design; (6) percentage of faculty participants who have intentions to incorporate Blockchain into their research efforts; (7) percentage of participants whose interest in Blockchain increased as a result of this workshop. Based on the results, target achievements were met or exceeded in all performance metrics except two: key indicators 3 and 5. Evidence suggests that these targets were not met due to hardware installation issues and low faculty turnout. The main contribution of this work is the discovery of how to pivot from in-person learning to effective online learning through the design, adaptation and implementation of educational enrichment workshops in a virtual learning environment post the Covid-19 pandemic.
Keywords— Blockchain Technologies, Virtual/Online Learning, Collaborative Research and Instruction, Covid-19 learning impact
Bernadin, S., & Mulay, T., & Chi, H. (2022, August), Creating a Virtual Learning Environment for Increasing Awareness of Blockchain Technologies at a Minority Serving Institution Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/40550
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