June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
Diversity and International Forum
19.23.1 - 19.23.9
International STEM Classrooms: The Experiences of Students Around the World Using Physical Remote Laboratory KitsVirtual classrooms’ lack of hands-on learning opportunities has been a major criticism leveled atMassive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), especially in engineering and science disciplines(Eisenberg & Fischer, 2014). One potential solution is to include remote laboratory experiencesinto the MOOC for diffuse global learners (e.g., Astatke, 2014). However, little is known aboutthe social, cognitive, and affective learning experience for students who use remote lab kits asopposed to participating in a residential science laboratory, nor have studies described thecomparative experiences of students in different national settings using remote lab kits as part ofa global MOOC. This paper addresses the need to understand in-depth diverse learners’experiences while using remote lab kits as part of a novel online course.The course studied is ABCx (identifying information removed), a MOOC offered from ___University with the edX platform ____. ABCx videos were highly interactive and demonstrated ahigh production value, covering a number of core neuroscience topics and utilizing periodicquizzes for students to make predictions and test their hypotheses. We use rich data from the firstiteration of the course, run from October 2013 through January 2014. This first course cohortincluded students from 143 different countries, many of whom were active on the coursediscussion forum. In addition, 200 students randomly selected out of volunteers from the wholeclass were sent at-home physical lab kits that allowed them to perform neuroscience experimentson insects in their own homes. This sub-sample of students came from 42 distinct countries, and,in the scope of this paper, we focus on the students who used the remote lab kits.Our central research questions are: (a) how can we characterize the ways in which studentsaround the world use at-home remote lab kits? (b) how is their use of the kits reflected in theironline individual and collaborative behaviors? (c) how do their offline kit usage and onlinebehaviors relate to their performance in the course? and (d) are their usage patterns or behaviorsmediated by their national setting? We utilize in-depth qualitative information from students’own lab reports, pre- and post-course survey responses, and detailed discussion forum posts.These data are complemented by clickstream-tracked behavioral logs, which record every clickstudents make on the website and provide individual-level quantitative data. We apply groundedtheory and content analysis to qualitative data, and we utilize advanced regression techniques aswell as social network analysis to understand supplementary quantitative information.We observe high levels of participation in the lab kit experiment by students in countries thathave typically shown high levels of engagement in MOOCs (i.e., USA, India, Brazil, Spain, andColombia; author, 2014). Our initial findings indicate that both logistical and ethical issues forthe at-home lab experiments varied by country context. Further, one of the key themes instudents’ lab reports highlighted the importance perceived by learners of physically evaluatingneuroscience theories and actualizing demonstrations presented in the ABCx online videos.Although the discipline of the course studied is neuroscience, there are important implicationsfor engineering classrooms. The experiments facilitated in ABCx apply not only biological butalso electrical engineering concepts (e.g., measuring electrical potential across a neuron). Manyengineering MOOCs have struggled to incorporate hands-on experiences for students, and thosethat do may use, at most, virtual simulation kits. The experiences of global students in this coursecould inform the structural and pedagogical design of blended courses for engineering.
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