Morehouse College and Alabama A&M University are collaborating on a research project to explore the use of chatbots to provide career mentoring for undergraduate computer science majors who are considering pursuing a graduate degree in computing (Award #1831964). The study will include participating students from ten different Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
African Americans with terminal degrees in computer science are scarce. However, HBCUs have a strong history of producing African American students who go on to get advanced degrees in computing. Research in this field will enable effective mentors in computer science to scale their best practices to a more significant percentage of undergraduate students at HBCUs.
The project will also fund the development of formal collaboration between Morehouse College and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). This groundbreaking program will allow the Principal Investigator, Dr. Kinnis Gosha, to serve as the thesis advisor for Masters students at Georgia Tech while trained as researchers at Morehouse College.
This project will investigate the barriers faced by African American students when deciding on pursuing advanced degrees in computing as well as how intelligent virtual mentors affect their decision. It will examine what the most effective way for an embodied conversational agent to interact with these specific group of students.
The findings from this study will be used to expand to other underrepresented groups to provide career mentoring for an assortment of science careers. Additionally, the conclusions of this research will help to build the research capacity at two HBCUs, Morehouse College and Alabama A&M University.
Morehouse College Computer Science Department won a $299,621 National Science Foundation grant (Award #1837541) to prepare in-service high school teachers for teaching the Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) course, the Beauty and Joy of Computing (BJC), with support from undergraduate computer science (CS) majors. The work leverages long-standing relationships between members of the Atlanta University Center Consortium (Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University), and the Atlanta Public Schools (APS).
APS predominantly serves and employs African American and other minority students and teachers. Likewise, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) of the Atlanta University Center primarily serve minority undergraduate students. Through this unique model, minority in-service, high school teachers will receive BJC professional development and support from minority undergraduate CS students in teaching their majority-minority AP CSP classes. The undergraduates will serve both as teaching assistants for the new CS teachers and as role models for the students. In turn, minority APS students will receive rigorous CS instruction contextualized within their culture.
This project will study the effects of in-person undergraduate teaching assistants during PD for and implementation of the BJC curriculum within minority populations. It will examine the outcomes of these teaching assistant and teacher relationships, exploring changes in teachers' CS content knowledge, understanding of careers in computing, confidence in teaching CS, and success in recruiting and retaining students of color. Likewise, it will examine effects on the undergraduate student teaching assistants regarding the ability to provide instructional support, levels of civic engagement, CS content knowledge, and professional identity.
The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) has identified research in broadening participation in STEM as one of its priorities and is committed to funding innovative models and research to enhance the understanding of the barriers that hinder and factors that improve and increase our ability to broaden participation in STEM.
The project at Morehouse College has been designed to initiate the implementation of essential research that will set the foundation for the development of the theoretical model for resilient science identity formation. The project in collaboration with Virginia State University and several other other HBCU institutions is designed to strengthen education research capacity by implementing a comprehensive faculty development program.
The goal of the HBCU Identity Research Center for STEM (Award #1818458) is to establish the foundational tenets of the theoretical model for resilient science identity formation. The project will achieve this goal through:
- Research activities that will contribute to an increased knowledge base on science identity formation and other psychosocial constructs that promote the creation of a resilient identity and ultimately success and retention in STEM.
- Education activities that contribute to learning about the experiences and accomplishments of STEM education at HBCUs.
- Knowledge translation activities that will facilitate the development of an intellectual infrastructure to ensure mutually beneficial communication and collaboration between individuals to propagate ideas and discover new research opportunities in the science of broadening participation.
- Outreach activities to all stakeholders and the broader academic community to engage in project activities and to inform the higher education community.
The project will impact the research training and education of thousands of students, hundreds of faculty, and the academic community at large about the science of broadening participation in general and identity formation specifically.
Morehouse College was awarded a Targeted Infusion Project grant entitled: Creation of a for Credit Online scientific Literacy Pre-freshman Summer Bridge Program (Award #1818618) on April 16, 2018. This highly innovative project will create a new category of problem-based learning products designed to facilitate student understanding of the scientific research process by using a virtual laboratory to simulate a research experience. The program will begin May 15, 2018, and run through April 30, 2021. Anticipated outcomes from this virtual research experience include increasing students’ critical thinking skills, intrinsic motivation, self-management skills, utilitarian scientific literacy, and intent to persist in STEM careers.
The new category of problem-based learning products that will be created to infuse into the online Scientific Literacy course will occur by modifying an interdisciplinary Research Simulation Case Study (RSCS) entitled Brain-Eating Amoeba. The RSCS is a faculty-mentored experience that requires a student to solve a research case study by assuming the role of a research scientist. The RSCS Brain-Eating Amoeba will be facilitated by a virtual embodied conversational agent (ECA), instead of a live faculty mentor. This computer-generated character is created from the face of a real individual and demonstrates many of the same properties as human face-to-face conversation, including the ability to produce and respond to verbal and nonverbal communication. An embodied conversational agent-research simulation (ECA-RS) case study will be created by combining ECA technology with the comprehensive, interdisciplinary Brain-Eating Amoeba RSCS.
The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) through Targeted Infusion Projects supports the development, implementation, and study of evidence-based, innovative models and approaches for improving the preparation and success of HBCU undergraduate students so that they may pursue STEM graduate programs and careers. The addition of the Brain-Eating Amoeba ECA-RS to the online course will enable its transition to a for-credit course that will be offered at no cost during the Pre-Freshmen Scientific Literacy Summer Bridge Program as an incentive for pre-freshmen to participate. The successful implementation of this program at Morehouse College will increase retention and ultimately graduation rates of African American students graduating with STEM degrees and entering into the national STEM workforce.
The NSF Funded Exploring Computing Careers Broadening Participation Research project is to develop a virtual career fair using embodied conversational agents (ECAs) that will engage students in career discussions and, if they have interests in computing, help inspire them to reach their potential in computing careers. A part of the rationale for this project is that many students are enrolled in high schools without any teacher or counselor who are truly knowledgeable about computing careers. Additionally, many students are not exposed to any underrepresented minorities in computing careers. Participating high school students will benefit by receiving up-to-date career information from computing professionals currently in the field via the ECAs. The expected outcomes for students interacting with the ECA via the ComputingCareersNow.org website is: 1) students are more likely to consider a career in computing, 2) students who considered a career in computing would be more interested in pursuing the career path and 3) students who want to pursue a career in computing can start investigating potential careers and what requirements are needed to achieve that career.