Exploring the Strategies Used by Two-year Colleges to Support Academic Continuity in STEM Education During the COVID-19 Crisis
Like other institutions of higher education, two-year institutions in the United States responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by using virtual instruction to provide academic continuity. Many of these institutions turned to the use of Digital Learning Tools, such as e-curricula, e-learning simulations and laboratories, and virtual reality modules. This pivot to online learning is expected to mitigate the disruption in the education of highly skilled professionals for the technical manufacturing workforce. The project team will examine the immediate e-learning response of two-year institutions to the COVID-19 crisis by investigating the use of Digital Learning Tools, specifically the e-curricula/materials and virtual reality simulations and laboratories developed by the NSF-funded Center for Aviation and Automotive Technological Education Using Virtual E-Schools (CA2VES) project. The goal of the project is to better understand the immediate e-learning responses of two-year institutions to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the impact of these responses.
Working closely with the South Carolina Technical College System and the National Center for Autonomous Technologies, the Clemson University-based research team will conduct a sequential exploratory research study that applies the Resilience Engineering Framework and the Technology Acceptance Model to address four research questions: 1) What demands were placed on two-year college educators during the rapid pandemic response? 2) What barriers to adoption and integration of e-learning resources did educators and students experience? 3) What strategies did administrators, educators, and students employ during the rapid transition? 4) What adaptations to e-learning do educators and students anticipate in the immediate future because of the COVID-19 pandemic? The mixed methods study will investigate the demands placed on instructors, students, and administrators to understand the barriers in adopting and integrating e-learning resources into manufacturing programs by conducting field studies. Based on the field studies, the project team will develop and administer a national survey to document and examine the national landscape for strategies employed in the rapid transition to online learning. The research team will systematically analyze and integrate quantitative and qualitative data to inform the development of evidence-based guidelines to strengthen academic continuity and the e-learning ecosystem. They will disseminate research findings to a broad audience of stakeholders to guide effective rapid educational transitions under disruptive conditions.