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Supporting and Engaging Community College STEM Students in a Virtual World

Supporting and Engaging Community College STEM Students in a Virtual World


Yoel Rodríguez, Professor, Natural Sciences, Hostos Community College
Anna Ivanova, Assistant Professor, Natural Sciences, Hostos Community College


In-class assessment reveals that a sizable population of students arriving at Hostos Community College to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) majors lack academic preparation to face the rigor of sciences courses. Specifically, students’ performance demonstrates lack of foundational scientific concepts and the physics and chemistry related mathematical knowledge needed to do well in STEM courses. In addition, most students enrolled in these classes have not been previously exposed to chemistry or physics concepts. We encounter these problems in both traditional in-person and online classes. The virtual environment opens new challenges making it harder for student to get the support they need. Thus, new teaching and learning strategies must be implemented to address these challenges in an online environment. To this end, we have introduced a game-based learning approach including Kahoot- and/or Jeopardy-style games in our online classes that not only keep students engaged in the course, but also help them better comprehend conceptual chemistry and physics. Furthermore, in our General Chemistry I and General Physics I courses, we use an online learning platform ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces; from Mc Graw-Hill) to facilitate the students learning and engagement. We also combine the use of virtual labs (simulations) with videos of actual experiments to help our students better understand chemistry and physics concepts being applied in practice. Altogether, these teaching strategies are positively impacting student learning observed through various pre- and post-assessments. The teaching and learning strategies presented here may be of interest of the educators’ community and be adapted for other disciplines and institutions.

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