2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity)
New Orleans, Louisiana
February 20, 2022
February 20, 2022
July 20, 2022
Technical Session 6 - Paper 3: Practitioners' Reflections on Developing and Implementing Virtual Educational Programming During COVID-19
Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions
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. https://peer.asee.org/39135
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