STEM Digital Village
LINC’s STEM Digital Village
The STEM Digital Village is an online community managed by the LU STEM group. Its goal is to facilitate increasing the numbers of students who enroll in STEM disciplines and retaining STEM scholars. It was conceived as a result of lessons learned generally during years of teaching STEM, and specifically during the up-close-and-personal administration of the first years of the LINC project.
Background and Concept:
The overall goal of the LINC project was to increase the number of STEM students that completed their degree in a STEM discipline, and increase the number of graduates who elect to attend graduate school. Experience in teaching underserved students taught us that the success we achieved was due, in part, to the hands-on nurturing necessary to retain and influence program participants. Our faculty had to adjust to the reality of who our students and LINC scholars are, and what influences their behavior and decisions. Many are first generation college students who don’t get a lot of encouragement from their family and friends to attend graduate school. Reaction from the homefront is generally quite the opposite; they want their children to get a degree and go to work so they can help out financially. LU STEM faculty soon discovered that the role of motivator and source of inspiration and encouragement falls on them if the LU and NSF goals were to be achieved. Experience taught us that our students do not easily or quickly comply with application deadlines, queries about graduate school access or research internship opportunities. They were not readily compliant with many other administrative duties that support success. When nurtured, however, their brilliance and capabilities become evident. Although faculty and staff might grumble that assisting these otherwise bright, talented young people should not be necessary, all realized that we are in the process of creating a mindshift – a process that requires patience, perseverance, and dedication.
Desired consequences notwithstanding, the follow up and follow through were daunting. Beyond the time constraints, STEM faculty needed to expand the numbers of its potential pool of LINC participants. An excellent resource was already on campus; faculty had to make time to recruit them and provide the necessary support for their success. At the time, Langston had 280 STEM students, and 40% of them had a 3.00 GPA or above. Our solution was to reach out to our network of industry partners and get their assistance in developing a trial digital solution that could assist with easing the administrative “information” burden, expand our pool or credible mentors, expand our impact to LU STEM scholars who were not directly involved in LINC, and create an exciting, informative, online space that appealed to the generation reflected in the student population. The Digital Village, as we conceived it, seemed poised to accomplish all these things.
STEM Digital Village Objectives
STEM Digital Village’s original and continuing objectives are: 1) reducing the administrative personnel support necessary to provide and receive all support documents critical to the program, 2) creating and tracking a repository of LU STEM graduates who are enrolled in graduate programs or are STEM professionals, thus increasing access to capable and supportive mentors, 3) supporting retention by creating a vehicle that encourages on-demand dialogue between cohorts, or between cohorts and STEM graduates, 4) impacting retention by showcasing the accomplishments of STEM scholars – making them role models in their home communities, 5) showcasing the accomplishments of the STEM program, particularly as it regards new programs featuring scholars, and 6) serving as a flow of positive public relations to potential LU STEM scholars.
This program has performed beyond expectations, attracting over 33,000 visitors and over 3,000 members. The quantity and quality of content engage a large sector of LU students primarily because student accomplishments and works are prominently featured, administrative tools and educational resources are readily available, and it features excellent study aids. It is also used by outside personnel as an information and news resource.
STEM Digital Village’s server platform can be expanded to support numerous activities, such as “members only” LINC personnel interaction beyond LU’s campus, and proprietary “knowledge bases” for an array of programs and topics. It’s profile makes it an ideal portal to other technology enabled activities, such as live or on demand webinars, shared screen interactive discussions, and more.