Doctoral student Hye Rin Lee supports transfer students’ video productions documenting their experiences
The “Leveraging YouTube to Increase STEM Persistence Project” was initiated in fall 2019 with support from a UC Irvine Pathways to Engineering Collaborative National Science Foundation grant. During the fall quarter, 20 students in the UCI engineering scholarship program for transfer students used video cameras to share their experiences in engineering – discussing class workload, the challenges of time management, availability of various support and resources, and more.
As part of the S-STEM engineering scholarship program, each student who participates must provide a series of videos, and two students can partner to create a video. By spring, participating students had contributed four videos each.
Lee is very excited about engineering students sharing their experiences with their peers. Throughout this process, she has begun to learn the importance of communicating and establishing a good relationship with students involved in this project.
In proposing this research, Lee recognized that YouTube already serves as a popular platform for young individuals, but many mainstream YouTubers with high numbers of subscribers tend to have a certain type of content, often focusing on lifestyle, beauty, or food.
“Many videos have high-quality production value to catch the eyes of a larger audience, emphasizing the aesthetics of their channel, rather than academic content,” Lee said. “The reality for most college students isn’t picture perfect as portrayed in their channel. Thus, for this project, we aim to increase the number of YouTubers who focus on academic content conveying a more realistic picture of college life, while providing good advice for the viewer.”
One of Lee’s roles in the project is to mentor undergraduate research assistants to support student videographers. Some of Lee’s research assistants are enrolled in the UCI CalTeach program, where undergraduate STEM majors earn a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential in four years. Lee believes that teaching other students to create videos will develop skills to motivate students in school, a particularly useful trait, given CalTeach students strive to become future teachers.
Lee’s research group consults with engineering students prior to filming, providing feedback on their outlines and asking students to reflect on themselves. After filming, they review the videos to provide final feedback and ensure that the content is related to their research questions.
Lee is particularly sensitive to the experiences of underrepresented students and wants to encourage more first generation, low-income, URM, and students with disabilities to pursue a STEM major.
“My experience as first-generation, immigrant woman, and student with disability, has inspired me to pursue this research project and help others succeed academically,” Lee said. “What I consider success is something I am grappling with… I hope students ultimately find their passion.”
Lee will be using data collected from the videos for her dissertation research. In particular, she will study whether there is a difference in students’ persistence when they watch these YouTube videos.
“This research is important because YouTube, as a free source, is especially suitable for underrepresented students who may not have the financial resources or social capital to know others in STEM majors,” Lee said. “As role models have a beneficial impact on academic motivation, this research project can diversify the STEM pipeline.”
In 2018, Lee received the Provost Ph.D. Fellowship, Eugene Cota-Robles Diversity Fellowship, and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Prior to UCI, she received her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from Franklin and Marshall College.