Broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in engineering and computer science to achieve parity with national demographics is an issue that has been and continues to be of national importance. While the trends that document participation denote improvements for some groups of interest, the trends have been stagnant for others—and in some cases, has gotten worse. This mix of responses is occurring despite decades of research and activity dedicated to advancing this topic. Among other things, this phenomenon suggests a disconnect between research and practice, and the need for a national agenda that engages a myriad of stakeholders interested in solving this multi-faceted problem. Activities associated with thread of research reveal a systematic approach to addressing this need.
Cyberlearning in STEM Education
Phrases like “Text me” and “Google it” are a part of our everyday vernacular. Though simple, the phrases speak to a greater reality—the ubiquitous use of computing and high-speed communications technology. The pervasive use of networked technology provides a venue to untapped opportunities for innovative approaches to teaching, learning, research, and administration in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The NSF Taskforce on Cyberlearning defines cyberlearning as “the use of networked computing and communications technologies to support learning” (2008, p5). Activities associated with thread of research reveal some of the ways in which cyberlearning (namely technology enabling experiences in artificial reality) is being used to advance STEM education.
Impact in Engineering Education
The search for ways to characterize, document, trace, measure, and increase the impact of engineering education research and innovations (EER&I) has become increasingly more important. There are at least four factors driving this collection of activity within our community: 1) the desire to realize transformative change in STEM education; 2) ongoing efforts to bridge the disconnect between research and practice in engineering education; 3) the need to adequately respond to calls for greater transparency and accountability of research expenditures; and 4) the dearth of scholarship on impact contributes to a lack of understanding. Activities associated with thread of research reveal a Mixed Methods approach to addressing this need.
Over the past three decades, there have been numerous calls for transformative change in engineering education. While such change is not always evident and has a relatively slow time constant, major shifts in engineering education do happen– and is happening. Change in this context may come in a variety of forms; one of which includes instructional changes. Activities associated with thread of research includes a suite of projects designed to improve instructional quality in engineering education via emphasis on project-based learning via virtual environments, pedagogical risk-taking, and the entrepreneurial mindset.