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Creating a virtual academic community for STEM students

Lisa B. Elliot (Center on Access Technology, National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA)
Benjamin Rubin (Center on Access Technology, National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA)
James J. DeCaro (Center on Access Technology, National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA)
E. William Clymer (Center on Access Technology, National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA)
Kathy Earp (Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students, Camden County College, Blackwood, New Jersey, USA)
Michele D. Fish (Student Disability Services, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 23 September 2013

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe synchronous, remote tutoring for the Deaf STEM Community Alliance's virtual academic community (VAC). The alliance addresses critical barriers for students who are deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) in postsecondary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors.

Design/methodology/approach

A mixed-method approach (qualitative content analysis and descriptive statistics) documents project activities.

Findings

Google+ Hangouts was used for remote tutoring. Participants completed 57 tutoring sessions. Participants found tutoring beneficial, especially for its convenience. Technical assistance and feedback systems were created to support participants. Grade point averages (GPA) and retention remained stable.

Research limitations/implications

Research on this project continues. Small sample size is a limitation of the study. Ongoing research investigates how remote technology and social media impact learning for students who are D/HH.

Practical implications

Scholarship on social media for educational purposes is minimal. While specifics of particular social media platforms vary, recruitment, technical assistance, and establishing feedback mechanisms are common issues for VACs. Outcomes from this study will be used to improve this VAC and create documentation for replication.

Social implications

The Deaf STEM Community Alliance provides supportive resources to underrepresented students in STEM majors. Improved GPA and retention in STEM majors will generate more individuals qualified for STEM careers. Research on VACs creates opportunities to understand how technology and networked communities change knowledge and learning.

Originality/value

The Deaf STEM Community Alliance is a unique project for postsecondary students in STEM fields who are D/HH. The information is valuable to educators interested in using social media for instruction.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Support for this project comes from the National Science Foundation, HRD-1127955.

Citation

B. Elliot, L., Rubin, B., J. DeCaro, J., William Clymer, E., Earp, K. and D. Fish, M. (2013), "Creating a virtual academic community for STEM students", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 173-188. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-11-2012-0051

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited