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Practitioners' Reflections on Developing and Implementing Virtual Educational Programming During COVID-19

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2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity)


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

February 20, 2022

Start Date

February 20, 2022

End Date

July 20, 2022

Conference Session

Technical Session 6 - Paper 3: Practitioners' Reflections on Developing and Implementing Virtual Educational Programming During COVID-19

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Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Paper Authors


Paula Davis Lampley Esq. University of Cincinnati

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Paula Davis Lampley, BSEE, JD

Paula Davis Lampley is the Women in Engineering Director at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science. She received a Degree in Mathematics from Wilberforce University, an Electrical Engineering Degree from University of Dayton, and a Law Degree from University of Cincinnati College of Law. Paula creates programs to insure female students, faculty and staff feel supported and enjoys recruiting the next generation of engineers. Paula is passionate about empowering girls to consider engineering where they can use their talent to develop technology and create solutions to everyday problems. As a former practicing lawyer, she enjoys speaking with engineering students about the intersection of law and technology.

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Whitney Gaskins University of Cincinnati

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Dr. Gaskins is the Assistant Dean of Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement in the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science, the only African-American female currently teaching in the faculty of the College of Engineering. Whitney earned her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering, her Masters of Business Administration in Quantitative Analysis and her Doctorate of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering/Engineering Education. In her role as Assistant Dean, Dr. Gaskins has revamped the summer bridge program to increase student support and retention as well as developed and strengthened partnerships in with local area school districts to aid in the high school to college pathway.
In 2009, she founded The Gaskins Foundation, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to educate and empower the African American community. Her foundation recently launched the Cincinnati STEMulates year round K-12 program, which is a free of charge program that will introduce more students to Math and Science. She was named the 2017 K12 Champion by the National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates (NAMEPA).

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Krizia L. Cabrera-Toro

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Krizia Cabrera-Toro is the Women in Engineering Program Coordinator where she works creating equitable programming and resources for faculty, staff and students in the College of Engineering & Applied Science at the University of Cincinnati. She is a Latinx STEM educator with a focus on social justice. She loves creating innovative culturally responsive programming for all, while creating access for those who are frequently marginalized. Krizia holds two master’s degrees: one in Integrative Studies with a focus on Multicultural Education and Leadership in Higher Education in STEM from Northern Kentucky University and the second in Science Education from Purdue University.

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Practitioners' Reflections on Developing and Implementing Virtual Educational Programming During COVID-19

Keywords: pre-college, undergraduate, race/ethnic, faculty

Developing and implementing programming for pre-college and undergraduate racially and ethnically diverse (RED) students and faculty is an integral part of higher education, as it provides experiences and educational enrichment not often found in classrooms. For many practitioners working in higher education, developing such programs includes tasks such as contacting speakers, securing classrooms, arranging interactive activities to ensure a great student experience. Not on the task list: “hosting a virtual program in case of a global pandemic.” As news circulated regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and universities around the world took drastic measures to curtail the spread of the virus. Nearly 1,100 colleges and universities in the United States closed their campuses with only days' notice to faculty, staff and students. COVID-19 caused the cancellation of in-person events and programs, while others quickly transitioned online. The transition online is not only a challenge to the program participants, but also to the practitioners implementing virtual educational programs. Many variables must be considered to deliver impactful virtual instruction, such as applicable technology, accessibility, and the use of live or pre-recorded content. Moreover, creating equitable and impactful virtual programming that serves racial, ethnic, linguistically diverse individuals requires the use of unique programming methods and techniques.

The current paper reflects the lessons learned by practitioners as they transitioned from face-to-face programming to online instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers selected the qualitative approach of virtual ethnography to detail the experiences of four practitioners as they planned and implemented virtual educational programming. Each of the four practitioners work as staff members in the University of XXX College of Engineering and Applied Science. The University of XXX is a historically white tier 1 research institution in the Midwest. The reflections of the practitioners were realized as they transitioned programs intended for face-to-face engagement to virtual programming for faculty, staff, middle school, high school, and college students. Programming was designed for student populations that are historically underrepresented in engineering and science.

In order to uncover the practitioners' individual experiences, the practitioners were asked to respond to six open ended questions related to the delivery of virtual programming: online platform selection, device accessibility, screen time and etiquette/decorum, learning objectives, program assessment and general program insight. All interviews were recorded and transcribed to allow comparison and contrast of experiences. Researchers utilized a thematic analysis to analyze the qualitative data generated from the recorded interviews to identify common themes, and ideas.

After interviewing the practitioners, the findings showed a pattern of creativity, resourcefulness, and equitable educational practices utilized in the planning and delivery of virtual programming. Additionally, the interviews revealed numerous methods and tactics employed by practitioners to adapt to the virtual learning environment. Practitioners invoked several methods to determine middle school and high school students’ access to devices and broad band internet to support online platforms. In contrast, accessibility to devices and access to online platforms were not major concerns when hosting virtual programs with faculty, staff, and college students. In such instances, faculty, staff, and students, were required by their university to maintain access to devices and on-line platforms in response to the pandemic.

Practitioners disclosed tools and metrics designed to evaluate participants’ screen time and compliance with virtual etiquette/decorum. Practitioners appropriated various methods to ensure participants were fully engaged while monitoring the possibility of online fatigue. Measures to minimize online fatigue were especially critical for programs that serve middle school students. To enhance the quality of virtual programming and improve user accessibility, practitioners created specific learning objectives. Additionally, practitioners developed several metrics to evaluate program impact, including surveys, engagement benchmarks, observation tactics, and progress reports.

In addition to the immense challenge of engaging with participants in a virtual environment, practitioners shared negative effects, such as the exclusion of students without device or internet access, internet transmission issues, and in some cases, a decrease in event attendance. While practitioners shared unfavorable factors, practitioners noted several advantages, such as the ability to impact a broader population of middle school and high school students and industry experts residing across the country.

The current paper offers an insight into the experiences of four educators who developed and implemented virtual educational programming during COVID-19 in a historically white institution in the Midwest. While it is hopeful that it will be years before the next global pandemic, COVID-19 has shifted perception and normalized digital learning and virtual programming. The narratives shared by participating practitioners may shed light on best practices to deliver effective and equitable educational content when virtual implementation is needed or desired as a method of delivery.

Lampley, P. D., & Gaskins, W., & Cabrera-Toro, K. L. (2022, February), Practitioners' Reflections on Developing and Implementing Virtual Educational Programming During COVID-19 Paper presented at 2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity) , New Orleans, Louisiana.

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