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Discovery: Transition of an Inquiry-focused Learning Program to a Virtual Platform During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Evaluation)

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Technical Session 14

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Page Count

22

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/36984

Download Count

100

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Paper Authors

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Nicolas Ivanov Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto

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Nicolas Ivanov is a PhD student at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, and a member of the PRISM Lab at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

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Nhien Tran-Nguyen University of Toronto

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Neal Callaghan University of Toronto

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Neal Callaghan is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, and a member of the Translational Biology and Engineering program at the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research.

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Theresa Frost Toronto District School Board

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Theresa Frost is the Assistant Curriculum Lead- Science & STEAM at Western Technical-Commercial School, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In her position as lead, Ms. Frost has transitioned her colleagues towards the intentional use of curriculum expectations to develop and guide interdisciplinary and inquiry-based learning, organizing participation in STEAM programming including the Discovery Educational Program through the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. Ms. Frost's passion for STEAM and accessibility is shared with others through her participation in the #tdsbudl collective. #tdsbudl is a collective of teachers developing and implementing a framework to help educators understand and effectively use universal design for learning (UDL). #tdsbudl supports education workers through the creation of multimodal resources shared in both physical and digital spaces.

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Jose Luis Cadavid University of Toronto Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-9966-7352

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PhD student in Chemical Engineering working on oncological tissue engineering

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Huntley H. Chang University of Toronto Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-3181-8019

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Ileana Louise Co

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PhD student in biomedical engineering working on tissue engineered immune-oncology models

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Patrick Diep University of Toronto

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PhD Student, Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry. Designing microbes to remediate and recover metals from mine effluents through metallobiochemistry and synthetic biology.

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Guijin Li University of Toronto

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Nancy T. Li University of Toronto

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Corinna Smith Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto

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Joshua Yazbeck

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Locke Davenport Huyer Johns Hopkins University

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Dawn M. Kilkenny University of Toronto

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Dawn Kilkenny earned her Ph.D. in physiology from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and trained as a postdoctoral fellow in Immunology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. After 4 years as a Research Specialist, Sr. at the Vanderbilt Cell Imaging Resource microscope facility, she joined the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME), University of Toronto. Having been the Associate Director, Undergraduate Programs (IBBME) and the Associate Chair, Foundation Years (Division of Engineering Science), she is currently the faculty advisor for the Discovery Educational Program. Dawn is a recipient of the 2017 U of T Early Career Teaching Award and was named the 2016 Wighton Fellow for excellence in development and teaching of laboratory-based courses in Canadian UG engineering programs.

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Abstract

The shift to distance learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has presented teachers and students with several challenges. Teachers have found themselves quickly creating distance learning materials to provide equal or greater educational opportunity and engagement as in-person instruction. This shift is met with parallel increased demand on students to independently manage their learning and coursework with the absence of in-person supervision, support, and peer interaction. In this work, we describe our approach and observations in transitioning Discovery, a secondary student science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education program, to a virtual platform.

Developed by graduate students in 2016, Discovery was designed to engage secondary students in semester-long inquiry-based projects within the context of biomedical engineering. Projects are designed to foster and reinforce critical thinking skills required for post-secondary study. Throughout the semester, students design and execute experiments within post-secondary laboratories with instructional support from both their teachers and graduate student volunteers. In response to university teaching space closures in early 2020, we developed and delivered a virtual offering of Discovery. In contrast to in-person delivery, this initial virtual offering placed greater emphasis upon quantitative analysis rather than experimental design and execution. Access to virtual laboratory simulations was provided as a substitute for in-laboratory skill development.

While overall assessment of student (survey instrument) and teacher (interviews) experiences revealed a highly positive perception of the program experience, areas for improvement were also highlighted. Many students reported struggling with motivation to keep up with course materials and soft deadlines (60%) as well as the lack of guidance provided by in-person mentor and teacher interactions (50%). Teacher interviews echoed quantified student perceptions, but further identified lamentation at the loss of student-driven, open-ended, and iterative problem-solving opportunities typically afforded by Discovery.

Consequently, we developed an adjusted virtual program for the Fall 2020 term. The redesigned program reintroduced the open-ended aspect of previous in-person projects, and rather than including access to commercially available virtual laboratory simulation, greater focus was placed on design of experimental procedures that were evaluated and simulated by graduate students. Additionally, greater care was taken to discretize project components and deliverable deadlines to provide enhanced structure and guidance for students. We observed this updated program structure to similar outcomes of in-person offerings. A slight majority (51.4%) of Fall 2020 students achieved higher grades for Discovery deliverables than other class assessments. In post-program surveys, ~49% of students indicated they are more likely to pursue STEM courses, ~89% would participate in the program again, and ~78% responded that the experience made them more comfortable with completing university or college level laboratory work. While these results were encouraging, comparisons to previous in-person outcomes and analysis of teacher experiences (interviews) highlighted persistent gaps in student experience while completing the program virtually.

Ivanov, N., & Tran-Nguyen, N., & Callaghan, N., & Frost, T., & Cadavid, J. L., & Chang, H. H., & Co, I. L., & Diep, P., & Li, G., & Li, N. T., & Smith, C., & Yazbeck, J., & Davenport Huyer, L., & Kilkenny, D. M. (2021, July), Discovery: Transition of an Inquiry-focused Learning Program to a Virtual Platform During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/36984

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