Title: "Eliminating Equity Gaps in Online STEM Gateway Courses through Humanized Instruction"
Granting Agency: California Education Learning Lab RFP 1: Improving Equity, Accessibility and Outcomes for STEM Gateway Courses
Participating Regions: Bay Area, Central Valley, North Coast, Orange County
Participating Institutions: Foothill-De Anza Community College District (FHDA), Modesto Junior College, Humboldt State University, UC Irvine
Grant Amount: Up to $1,300,000
Online STEM gateway courses hold significant potential to improve access to STEM education among nontraditional students and students from underrepresented groups in California. Currently, however, the performance gaps between online and face-to-face learning seem to be particularly large among underrepresented minority students. As a result, online learning, without fundamental improvement in instructional effectiveness and student supports, may exacerbate the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academic pathway leak for under-represented minority (URM) students. This study, “Eliminating Equity Gaps in Online STEM Gateway Courses through Humanized Instruction”, proposes a 3-year plan to initiate a systemic shift in the culture of online and hybrid STEM instruction across California public higher education institutions.
Guided by the psychological theories about distance learning and social presence, the project team will implement a large-scale, collaborative online professional development program, the Humanizing Academy, to address a crucial challenge to successful learning in an online environment: greater difficulties in enabling effective human interaction. Specifically, this proposal will test whether “Humanizing” a course—defined as efforts to help instructors to develop empathy, presence, and awareness, as well as pedagogies to improve instructor-student relationships and build classroom community—can help improve instructor-student and student-student interactions in online STEM courses, strengthen students’ sense of belonging and engagement, and increase learning outcomes in gateway online and hybrid STEM courses, particularly for URM students. Faculty, in partnership with instructional designers, will learn how to use free to low-cost digital tools and effectively apply them to the design and facilitation of their courses to foster instructor-student relationships.
The technology-enhanced pedagogical practices that are found to improve engagement and success for URM students will be scaled across the CCCs, CSUs, and UCs through the Humanizing Academy, which will be followed by a supportive course redesign period. Evidence-based practices will be shared publicly in the form of a “Humanizing Online STEM Courses” Practitioner Toolkit.